Midview Local School District officials in Grafton, a small town in Lorain County, are warning residents of “devastating” spending cuts in the next two years even if a proposed 21.5 percent property tax increase passes.
District administrators including Superintendent John Kuhn have suggested dire consequences if a levy is not approved, The Morning Journal has reported. The proposed levy would increase the median Grafton homeowner’s tax burden by an estimated $414 annually.
At a December 19 school board meeting, Kuhn revealed the school’s plan for covering a projected deficit. School administrators and the Board of Education have targeted almost all extracurricular activities — including sports, Advanced Placement classes, and after-school clubs — for elimination.
According to the Morning Journal, blame for the district’s financial woes lies with with the state and the elimination of the tangible personal property tax. Ohio Department of Education (ODE) data, however, show that Midview has actually received more money from the state under Governor John Kasich than it received from Governor Ted Strickland.
Midview received roughly $250,000 more in state unrestricted grants-in-aid in 2012 than it did in 2010.
A review of district financial data shows that while revenue collected from taxpayers has increased by 1.9 percent over the last three years, the district has spent money roughly 10 times faster than that.
The Midview Local School District’s budget ballooned by over 15 percent over the past 4 years, buoyed by roughly $2 million in “stimulus” funds from President Barack Obama’s 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The district responded to the federal stimulus by increasing teachers’ salaries by 2.2 percent annually and increasing spending for fringe benefits such as retirement and pension payout perks by 6.7 percent, as negotiated between teachers’ unions and administrators.
Next year, Midview teachers’ salaries will account for 55.4 percent of the school’s entire budget, with retirement and pensions accounting for an additional 20.6 percent of spending.
Midview Local, which has roughly 3,342 students, began spending more money than it took from taxpayers last year. A relatively small annual deficit of $145,467 in 2011 grew by an order of magnitude to $1,123,330 in 2012.
Annual spending increases turned what was a $1.6 million surplus in 2010 into a shortfall this year.
Based on ODE records, the average teacher salary in Midview Local School District increased by 14 percent from 2005 to 2010. The median district taxpayer’s wages fell by 2.1 percent over the same time period.
Without considerable spending cuts or a sharp increase in tax revenue, Midview Local’s red ink will double by the end of 2013 – and will double again every one to two years, according to the district’s own forecast. Absent a course correction, in five years the district will be spending over $6 million more than it takes from taxpayers.
School board president David Zunis demanded that the district’s taxpayers ”step forward and take responsibility for educating its children,” adding that taxpayers were “either part of the problem or part of the solution,” The Chronicle-Telegram reported.
Midview Local School District resident Elizabeth Bistline noted that taxpayers have rejected the school’s requests for more money 14 times over the past 20 years. “We’ve told them so many times we can’t do this,” Bistline said.