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Monroeville schools not asking for new money — yet

Zoe Greszler • Jun 22, 2018 at 4:00 AM

MONROEVILLE — If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

That’s what Monroeville Local Schools intend to do when it comes to levies. This time though, the board will go back to the drawing board before putting something new on the ballot. 

The board decided at Monday’s meeting to ask the public to continue its current 1.8-mill levy, which generates about $80,000 for the district, but also formed a committee to come up with a Plan B. The committee will examine the situation and gather community feedback over the next three years in order to return to the ballot with a better levy option.

Monroeville was denied a five-year, 1.8-mill replacement permanent-improvement (P.I.) levy that appeared on the May ballot. 

The levy would have replaced one by the same millage that was passed in 1973 and has brought in the same amount of cash for the past 45 years, despite the district doubling in size. The school currently collects taxes on houses based on their worth 45 years ago, to generate the $80,000. The new levy would have doubled that.

Losing those projected funds put the school in a tight spot, according to the five-year fiscal report by treasurer Stephanie Hanna.

“If we continue to spending the way we’re spending, we will be in deficit spending in 2020,” she told the board at the May meeting.

Hannah said deficit-spending would start because of the expenses that would need to come out of the district’s general funds, expenses which she said should be coming out of permanent improvement (PI) funds. The failed levy would have fueled the P.I. account, supplying funds for things like text books, bus replacement and building repairs, but which now must come out of the general fund.

No tax increase right now

The board decided instead to ask the public to continue with a renewal levy for three years through 2021, which will cause no increase in school taxes.

“It’s the levy that’s currently active, we’re just renewing it for the same dollar amount,” board president Nancy Brown said.

“So there’s no tax increase — we’ll still be generating the same amount ($80,000) from this year, last year, all the way back to the 1970s. We’re just keeping what we already have. We feel like we want to do a better analysis of what the needs are. The replacement levy is what the community told us they don’t want, based on the ballot results. So we decided, let’s take a step back. There will be no change right now. We’re going to take some time to look at things then move forward in a few years.” 

Brown said the committee will work over the next three years to “determine what steps to take” and will include MHS alumni Bob Fries, Kurt Leber and Robin Reed, all of whom have been involved with the school in the past. The committee also will ask the community to join and contribute to the discussion and efforts.

The board will put the renewal levy on the upcoming ballot, to keep the same money that’s already coming in, then add a new, yet undetermined levy on the ballot in 2021. Brown said she doesn’t expect the committee to wait three years though to take action.

“They’ll be working as soon as we finish this renewal levy campaign,” she said.

“I would hope the committee and the community will see our campus has grown exponentially (since 1973) and I hope they’ll be in support of a long-term solution for our permanent improvement needs,” Brown added. “I’m hoping we’ll come up with a good figure with a five-year plan. Our hope is they’ll find a dollar figure that will support the school.”

What’s the community willing to do?

This plan though could potentially put the school in deficit-spending for at least one year, or longer is the newly-formed committee’s Plan B were to fall through, since the five-year forecast calls for deficit-spending to begin in 2020 without the needed changes. 

“It can’t be the $80,000 we’re generating now,” Brown said about the future levy. “Had we kept up with the current levy, (updating it each year to match) current property values, it would be in the $400,000 range. We want the community’s input to see what they’re willing to do to keep the district moving froward.”

If the committee and community don’t approve a more sustainable plan for the funds, the school could be looking at a dire situation, Hannah said.

“This is a great district. If you lose your school, you lose your community,” Brown said.

Anyone wanting to get involved in the levy committee can call one of the committee members, whose contact information can be received through the school board office.  

“We hope people will be involved,” Brown said. “The chair people are in different spheres of the community, so our hope is they’ll bring different perspectives and drawn on their contacts to see what the community wants and draw a good-size group of people. Anyone is welcome. They would love more hands to be involved.”

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