Elida approves levy, contract

First Posted: 1/20/2015

ELIDA — Tuesday night, the Elida school board approved an emergency renewal levy and teacher salary contracts.

Each issue had been a subject of debate for months.

The levy, which will appear on the May ballot, would renew the district’s current one. The levy includes taxes in excess of the 10 mill limitation, but would also provide roughly $2.7 million for the district’s schools each year for a period of five years.

After a series of cuts made in the past few years, board Treasurer Joel Parker said cutting another $2.7 million from the budget would be unthinkable. If the levy were to not pass in May, the district’s taxpayers would also lose their 12.5 percent homestead deduction.

“It just can’t happen,” he said. “It’s absolutely critical this levy passes.”

The funds are needed to allow carryover in the budget. For example, in December, the board reported $10.4 million in revenue with about $10 million in expenditures and a carryover of only $2.4 million.

“That seems like a lot,” Parker said. “But we’re already low spending.”

Though the board unanimously agreed to include the emergency levy on the ballot this spring, the same cannot be said for the district’s teacher salary contracts or salary schedules.

The board had negotiated the terms of the contracts for months with district teachers, finally reaching what seemed to be an agreement during its meeting in December. To formally approve the contract, the board had to vote on it during last night’s meeting. Though it was approved 4-1, some board members, such as Jeff Christoff, were not happy about it.

Christoff was concerned particularly regarding school and teacher schedules. As a part of the negotiations, teachers were awarded late-start days for administrative purposes. But with the number of late start and calamity days piling on, Christoff wasn’t so sure more school delays would the benefit students and their families, who would lose class time with their instructors and have to make more arrangements at home.

“It’s a travesty,” he said.

District Superintendent Tony Cox, however, said that during the give and take process of the negotiations, it was about representing all sides affected by the salary contracts.

“We were thinking about our students,” he said. “But we were also thinking about our employees who are a vital part of our organization as well. … To me, I bet you’ll see more districts in the future adding time for their teachers to do this sort of thing.”

Board members Pat Schymanski and Brenda Stocker were strongly in favor to approve the contract, as well.

“If we’re so concerned about class time, then we should be talking to our state representatives,” she said.

The debate continued on into the next line of agenda regarding salary schedules, which directly related to Christoff’s concerns, but also the concerns of member Christine Ulrich, who wanted to wait for the schedule to take effect in the following year, rather than the current one.

Overall, the resolution was approved 3-2.

The meeting did have less controversial points of discussion, including the acceptance of a $40,000 donation from the Paul R. Sluss estate establishing the Paul E. Sluss Memorial Scholarship. Sluss was a teacher in the Elida district, two audience members during the meeting said he was a great teacher and the yearbook adviser for many years.

“It’s a very exciting thing,” Parker said.

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