By Sue Botos
After mixing community suggestions and findings from consultants, the Rocky River Board of Education has come up with what it hopes is the recipe for success when it comes to passing an operating levy. At last week’s committee meeting, board President Kathy Goepfert announced the district will place a 4.9-mill measure on the November ballot.
Goepfert said that Lowell Davis, a former school treasurer, spent about a week going over the district’s books and came up with the amount. “Basically, he told us 5.3 (mills) is what’s needed, but he did not suggest 5.3,” said Goepfert, adding that 4.9 was recommended, along with cuts to make up the difference between that amount and the needed 5.3 mills.
Finance committee chairman Scott Swartz spoke to the decision to go with a November ballot after hearing a presentation by Bob Dykes of TRIAD Research at a recent special board meeting. “We all came away from that very pessimistic about being on an August ballot,” said Swartz, adding, “Where we thought we were going to be a couple of months ago has improved due to the unanticipated collection of delinquent property taxes.”
Davis, who was retained by the board for a cost of $600, was unable to attend last week’s meeting, and will present his findings at tomorrow’s board session. Attempts to contact him by West Life were unsuccessful.
Swartz added that, despite not needing to make “painful cuts” for the upcoming school year, additional budget trimming will take place. “But it takes some of the pressure off considering going in August, which our experts tell us is not a good idea,” he stated.
The district received $800,000 in delinquent taxes, which was $500,000 more than anticipated. Treasurer Greg Markus explained that usually, the collection rate of new taxes runs about 95.5 percent, with money from previous years making up the difference to reach a 100 percent rate. He said that even with the increase in delinquency payments, this year’s collection is still at 95.5 percent.
“I just don’t want the perception to be that we just found money. We have delinquencies out there, and that’s real money,” commented Superintendent Michael Shoaf.
Board member Jay Milano countered that focusing on tax delinquencies and not budget cuts “shortcuts the process of what Mr. Davis is going to talk about. I don’t agree that there won’t be significant cuts.”
Swartz, noting that cuts will come both in the form of reduction of current programs and the non-implementation of others, promised, “We will have noticeable changes from what this district thought it would be doing.”
He added that there has been some suggestion of waiting until next year for a levy, since, with a frugal budget, the 2012-2013 school year can be maintained. He stated that a levy passed this year would begin collection by the district in January of 2013, where funds from a 2013 levy would not be realized until 2014.
“Just because we can get through the rest of the school year doesn’t mean we can wait for a levy,” said Swartz. He added that Davis “found, basically, we’re where we thought we were, but there are some improvements we can make in our financial projections to be more pinpointed.”