Officials at Sheffield-Sheffield Lake Schools know what it's like to run out of money and are hoping to prevent a yawning budget hole from opening beneath their feet in the future.
To do so, they're asking voters to approve a modest 1.5-mill property tax levy that will be used to close budget gaps they predict will be created by reductions in state funding coming out of Columbus as well as cuts in federal funding. Those changes, officials said, will reduce the amount of money the district brings in over the coming years.
The district has an annual budget of around $20.1 million funded in part by three other levies.
Superintendent Mike Cook told us that the district already has made the cuts it can afford to make and does its best to be as frugal as possible with the money it has.
"We can't reduce any more," he said.
Issue 42, which would generate $462,080 per year if passed by voters, isn't necessary to prevent budget cuts or layoffs right now, but down the line the money could be critical to preventing such problems from materializing. The amount is roughly what the district predicts it will lose thanks to state cuts.
"We don't have a sob story," Cook said. "We're just trying to be proactive and not dig ourselves into a hole."
In this case, Cook said, the district's recent history is instructive. Voters resoundingly rejected a 9.5-mill levy in November 2014, which led to cuts, including the loss of teachers, administrators and support staff.
The district was then able to come back in the spring of 2015 and win support from voters for a smaller, 6.53-mill levy that generates nearly $2 million annually. It restored the schools to financial health, although it didn't undo the cuts the district had already implemented.
Cook said with the current levy, which would be permanent, the district is hoping to break that boom-bust cycle.
If the levy fails, Cook and Treasurer Michael Pissini said there wouldn't be any layoffs or cuts in services for the district's 1,858 students.
But they also warned that at some point the district would have to return to voters to ask them to pass a new levy and by then the asking amount would need to be larger to generate the money needed to deal with the funding the district anticipates losing from the state.
"In three years we're going to need a levy that's extreme," Pissini said.
The levy that Sheffield-Sheffield Lake Schools wants voters to pass right now isn't extreme and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $52.50 per year.
Voters should approve Issue 42 and give the schools some fiscal breathing room. Sheffield-Sheffield Lake Schools offers proactive levy to voters