April 6, 2013
ELIDA—It’s a common question but one that has Elida schools officials scratching their heads.
“People ask what is going to be cut if the levy fails. I don’t know,” Superintendent Don Diglia said Friday.
Diglia and Treasurer Joel Parker presented the district’s finances to about a dozen business people at its seventh annual financial summit.
At the center of this year’s talks was the five-year, 5.95 mill property tax levy on May’s ballot. The levy would raise $2.1 million a year for the district. Sixty percent of voters rejected a levy in November, forcing the school board to approve $465,569 in reductions for next school year.
The reductions stand regardless of the levy outcome. A failed levy would mean additional cuts, but officials aren’t sure where to find them.
“We are at the bottom of the barrel. There are no cuts left,” Parker said.
Elida has just 14 more teachers than the state minimum standard for teacher-student ratios in core subject areas.
Diglia said possible cuts would be reducing a high school language arts teacher, science teacher and foreign language teacher, a middle school foreign language teacher, an elementary building coach and returning to a half-day kindergarten program.
The district also could cut extracurriculars, but Diglia said doing so would no longer make Elida a comprehensive school district.
“That is part of a quality education,” he said. “That is part of community pride, part of why people come to Elida.”
Elida High School currently has 93 class offerings. Officials compared that to Dublin Coffman High School’s 219 offerings.
“Our kids are going to meet those kids in college,” board member Brenda Stocker said.
Diglia repeatedly has talked of the importance of keeping a full-day kindergarten program. The district had dropped it after a failed levy but brought it back when a levy passed in 2005.
Talking about the importance of all the things that could possibly be cut, Diglia asked how the district could choose what goes.
“Is there even a choice? I submit there is not,” he said. “Anything less than what we have now is devastating to the district.”
Diglia added that new mandates coming from the state, including teacher evaluations and the third-grade reading guarantee, make cutting administrators unfeasible. While the district could change its transportation and still meet state guidelines, Diglia questions whether the public would really want that.
“Do we want kids walking across (state route) 309?” he said.
Over the past five years, Elida has lost $2.3 million in revenue while cutting $2.8 million from its budget. The district faces a $1.3 million deficit in fiscal year 2015. That grows to $4.7 million in 2016.
Parker talked of forces working against schools, including tax delinquencies, loss of inventory tax, unfunded mandates and vouchers. Under Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget, Elida is in line to get an additional $774,000, but Diglia suspects that with so many schools getting nothing, the plan won’t stand. There already is talk of the Ohio House killing the plan next week.
The district also has a five-year, 1 mill permanent-improvement renewal levy on the ballot.
The levy campaign is in full swing. It will host a family fun day from noon to 4 p.m. today at Elida High School. Admission to inflatables in the main gymnasium is $5 or $2 for children younger than 3. Carnival games are 50 cents. Teams can sign up for the cornhole tournament for $10.
Other activities include bake sale, raffles, auction, face painting, petting zoo and display of American Township Fire Department equipment.