VINCENT-The Warren Local Board of Education started the process Monday of putting a renewal emergency levy on the ballot in May and may postpone for now asking residents for any new money.
The board authorized district treasurer Melcie Wells to have Washington County Auditor Bill McFarland certify the renewal levy for five years, with a final resolution on the levy that will include millage to be made by the board at a special meeting Feb. 2. It would be the third renewal of this levy in the Warren district.
The current levy expires at the end of 2010 and brings in more than $1.7 million a year.
With the district facing large deficits, board members had discussed trying to pass a levy in May that would bring in the amount of the expiring levy plus additional funds needed to combat state cuts and rising costs.
But, citing local layoffs and the continuing economic recession, both Wells and Warren Superintendent Tom Gibbs recommended trying to pass a renewal levy in May and then examining whether an additional levy should be considered.
Board members seemed to agree, after a long debate over whether to give greater weight to the need for more funds than the renewal would provide or to the fear that asking for too much from voters right now will lead to getting nothing.
Special school board meeting: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 2, Administration Building.
Regular school board meeting: 6:30 p.m. Feb 17, Administration Building.
"If we (pass the renewal) we're still looking at a deficit in two years but if we don't then we're looking at a catastrophe," said board vice president Dan Johnson. "I think we need to at least secure the money we've had and I'm hoping we'll get votes from people who realize that we've made every effort to trim, cut costs and save. I would hope they'd say 'We can't afford to give them more right now but we want them hanging in there and we can pass this and pay what we've been paying.'"
If the renewal levy doesn't pass the district would have to look at making about $3 million in cuts-the equivalent of 35 teaching positions, said Gibbs. That would put the district below the state minimum required.
"We couldn't even do that," he said. "We would have to look at doing away with all-day, every-day kindergarten, athletic programs, busing. ... We're going to be in tough shape anyway but it would literally devastate our district if the renewal didn't pass."
The district will still have to make more reductions either way, Gibbs said, and is already considering not replacing some retiring administrators, including Assistant Superintendent Steve Lyons.
Passing just the renewal levy could possibly provide enough time for the economy to begin to turn around before the board would have to ask for another levy to be passed, board members said. It would also allow time for the state budget to be determined.
"It's hard to imagine putting something bigger in front of voters right now," said Johnson, who previously wanted to be more aggressive and ask for the amount the district needed. "It's hard for me to feel someone is going to vote in the affirmative when they just lost their job."
Also at Monday's meeting:
The board accepted the resignation of 10-year board member Willie Holbert and is now accepting resumes for those interested in serving on the board. The new board member's term would expire Dec. 31.
Resumes can be sent to Melcie Wells at the administration building, 220 Sweetapple Road, Vincent, Ohio, 45784.
The board authorized district administrators to get bids for roofing services at Warren High School, due to escalating problems with water leakage at the school.
Leaks in Buildings Three and Four at the high school were patched last year but leaks have now started in Building Five, Gibbs said.
"These are substantial leaks," he said. "We've had to put in an internal system of gutters to get the water to drain out, just to get it out of the classrooms."
The roofs are still under warranty but the roofing company has filed for bankruptcy and is not returning phone calls, Gibbs said.
If the company does not pay for the repairs, he hopes to be able to secure block grant funding for the project, he said.