WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren OhioVoters reject most local school issues

Voters reject most local school issues

HOWLAND, Ohio - Howland Schools have been rated excellent for the past five years.

But faced with the impending loss of nearly four million dollars in state funding, the district will have to go even further than last year's teacher and staff cuts.

"There was a sense of urgency to get a levy passed this time in November," explained Howland Superintendent John Sheets. "So now we're going to deal with a whole another calendar year of less or no more additional money."

The November 8th election was an important one for local schools. Without new levies, no new money would be coming in for 2012, despite deep cuts in state funding.

And voters turned down nearly all new levies for local schools.

Next year Howland will likely ask voters again for new money.  "We can't cut our way to solvency," said Sheets.

United Local Schools were hoping to pass a bond to provide $9.75 million of local funds to match a 79% state contribution for renovations.  It was defeated for a second time, and now the district must find a way to maintain a 60-year-old building.

"Even though we will not have the $9.7 million in matching funds for the Ohio School Facilities Commission, we still do have repair needs for our school that we're going to figure out how to take care of," said United Local Superintendent RuthAnn Rinto.

A bond in Weathersfield was narrowly defeated, although final numbers will need to be counted to see if the district will get new buildings. Officials want to refurbish the high school, close the middle school and create K-6 and 7-12 buildings.

"This is a priority for our school system to get our facilities updated," said Weathersfield Superintendent Damon Dohar. "And a 72% paid for by the state is a very, very good number."

A new levy to replace budget cuts failed again in Canfield, which means teachers and programs are on the chopping block.

"The board was very clear, if the levy passed, this gave them money in 2012,  bussing would be restored, now it won't be," said Canfield Superintendent Dante Zambrini. "And we would have other things like teachers that we won't cut, no we'll have to cut different programs. So it is very sad."

Many districts are frustrated with the Ohio school funding system, deemed "unconstitutional" by the state Supreme Court.

"It's very, very unfortunate that Ohio, the school funding system is broken," said Zambrini. "We rely too heavily on property tax owners. The property taxes can not continue."

And schools can't always depend on those taxes.

"We get the same pot of money or we get less than we did in the previous year," added Sheets. "It's hard to run a $30 million operation when you're told the day before school starts or the month before school starts that you're going to have two million less in money. So that's kind of what the frustration level is out there with superintendents and boards of education."

And schools will need more than just the budget ax to balance their books.

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