Edge of a Financial Cliff by Kelly Boyer Sagert

November 4, 2010 at 1:30 am 15 comments


November 4, 2010

To the editor,

The Lorain school levy has failed. Why? Perhaps the words of Abraham Lincoln offer an explanation. Lincoln said; “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time”. When the only way the citizens’ can be heard is at the ballot box they will, and did, speak loud and clear.

In the last 3 years 4 tax levies have failed. The district’s state report card, to quote a recent editorial, “stinks like a dead cat on a curb”. ED NOTE: pdf OF THE EDITORIAL HERE

And over 1,000 students have left the district. During that same period the payroll at the Charleston Administration Center continued to climb. In the last school year it exceeded $5,000,000.
The district has done nothing to retain or attract students. When a major communications company offered to implement and pay for a marketing plan for the district the superintendent ignored the offer.

The school board’s Business Advisory Committee, the only board committee required under Ohio law, has not met in more than 2 years. The boards Financial Advisory Committee does not meet on a regular basis. The board’s Facilities Committee has not met in more than 6 months and played no part in the Site 3 decision.

In a recent communication I received from the Ohio School Facilities Committee regarding Site 3 it was made clear that, while the state would not object to building on Site 3, the state would pay no more than the original allocation in the master plan for a high school. So when costs far exceed the allocated amount, and they will, the state will shut off the money supply. Guess who will be left holding the bag?

I close with more words from Lincoln; “When the sentiments of the people are with you, you will not fail. When the sentiments of the people are against you, you will not succeed”. Words that I, and my fellow board members, should remember before asking voters to consider any school levies.

Jim Smith

At tonight’s Lorain City Schools Board of Education meeting, treasurer Dale Weber stated that the school system is poised on the “edge of a financial cliff,” now that Issue 8 failed at the polls on November 2nd.

Weber described several options that the school board could take next, including putting a levy on the ballot in February as part of a special election or waiting to put the issue on May’s ballot as part of the upcoming primary election. If February was chosen as the date, then the school board would need to pass a motion during the meeting and the school system would need to assume the burden of the cost of the election. If May was chosen, then the board would need to act by an unspecified date in January.

The board decided to not put the issue on the ballot in February to allow for planning time and for time to discern reasons for the failure of Issue 8.

The board and superintendent Cheryl Atkinson discussed whether cuts in school programming should take place immediately or if the current school year should continue in its present scheduling and format. It was noted there is funding available to continue current classes and programs through the end of the current school year. It was decided to not make additional cuts during the 2010-2011 school year in hopes that the community would approve additional funds in the election held in May 2011. The school district would not have immediate access to funds generated by a successful levy campaign, but they could borrow against future funds.

Although board member Jim Smith did not suggest making programming cuts during the middle of the 2010-2011 school year, he did present an alternate view, suggesting that some cuts in spending should be made now. He pointed out that the board and administration should also consider the fact that, in 2011, the community will also need to consider a renewal levy; if that levy fails, Smith said, then the next step for the district would be to turn off the lights and shut the doors. He also suggested that bringing back students who left the district in favor of charter schools would also help the budget crisis, as each child takes approximately $5,700 in funding to whatever school he or she attends.

The school system, according to Weber, is currently in a state of fiscal caution. Depending upon the recovery plan that the school system will need to submit to the state, the district could be downgraded to fiscal watch – or could be placed in fiscal emergency.


Entry filed under: education. Tags: .

X1- November the last- Chris Ritchey The Heron and the Henery ;)

15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mark  |  November 4, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Kelly, How could the district bring back the students in the charter schools? Invite them back? I don’t think they can force them, can they? The charter schools are allowed to operate and open up when the district fails to meet certain guidelines/benchmarks. I’m curioius as to how they would make this happen.

    Atkinson doesn’t seem to get it. At this point, I don’t think she ever will.

  • 2. Kelly Boyer Sagert  |  November 4, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    I think the intent of the suggestion was to make the public schools so effective and enticing that parents would want to bring their children back — not force them.

  • 3. Loraine Ritchey  |  November 5, 2010 at 12:38 am

    Someone asked me the other day what suggestion did I have to help show credibilty and sacrifice from the adminisrtative offices of LCS

    well I said you won’t like the suggestion but If Mrs. Atkinson took $100,000.00 of her salary for three years straight and donated it back to the school system – she would get tax benefits I believe as a donation….. isn’t the school system a non profit- and hey lets face it we aren’t exactly an expensive community in which to live – I am sure she can live comfortably on her remaining salary…. to me that would show desire and stepping up and putting ones money where their mouth is…. …….think that will happen 🙂

    I think the voters are fed up with paying more and more and either staying status quo or losing ground…….. people want to feel safe and have a quality education for their taxes..

    We may not have had an operating levy for the LCS for a few years BUT we did pass that building levy for all new schools and two high schools and then POW the rug was pulled – we aren’t getting the number of schools promised initially due to falling enrollment….. the STATE said no and no two high schools as we again don’t have the numbers…… I think we should get some of our taxes back on that – don’t think that will happen though 😦

    LCCC levy passed because they give a good product and the majority believed in what they are doing…… I don’t think Lorain as a community has the same belief in LCS or the city …..

  • 4. Dennis Lamont  |  November 5, 2010 at 11:10 am

    I just have to add that county-wide things like the Metroparks and LCCC have much more support than anything from Lorain and I might as well include Elyria in that broad brush statement while I am at it.
    In straight votes alone Lorain & Elyria together do not have a majority.

    Firelands didn’t pass their school levy either …real bummer ….and who pays for that, the kids. If you really can’t afford it, I pray your situation improves, if you are protesting something, why should the kids pay for it. By the same token over half the voters just don’t care what you do with the money or who does it.

    Just another nail in the economic coffin

    BTW: since the news conference in Columbus yesterday, my views are coming from “under da bus”

  • 5. Loraine Ritchey  |  November 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Dennis are you referring to to the rail situation?

    Yes , I agree except and I am coming from this as a complete ( under the water popping my head up for minutes) opinion- I see a lot of the “site three ” blame for the loss – it maybe be the nail on which to hang the blame – but “personally” I don’t think that is the major reason for the loss of the levy…… talking to those who have traditionally voted “for” LCS I find credibility lacking- I found people whose income is 1/5 or less than the superintendents or 1/3 of administrators not relating to those salaries in lieu of the “results”.

    The way schools are funded ( including Frielands voters probably) needs to be addressed all across the state- it needs to be equitable and not just on property owners – if property owners were the only ones allowed to vote can you imagine the stink that would raise-

    We also have become a group of people that I believe need to see a quick reversal of a situation – that as demonstrated by this past mid term election.

    It is true a healthy school system and one that accomplishes across the board will bring people into a community unfortunately this community is not healthy in its infrastructure, its services and its education ( re stats) all those things go hand in had and on top of that a population that is saying – show us what we get for the money !

  • 6. thatwoman  |  November 5, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    JUST curious whenever a new levy is being asked for we get

    ” Oh it will only cost 20 cents a day or 39 cents a day” – does anyone have the information of how much a day is ‘ALREADY’ being paid on say a 70 thousand dollar taxable home kin the LCS district…….. mathmaticians anyone????

  • 7. Grammy  |  November 5, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Remember that the Ohio Supreme Court ruled years ago that the state legislature needed to change the way public schools are funded in Ohio (take it off the backs of property owners) and make it equitable across the state. They have yet to follow the court ruling and things remain the same. If we as citizens refused to follow a court order, where would we be? They are supposed to be the leaders, examples of what is done correctly, yet nothing. The Lottery is not the solution, we all know that is a joke when it comes to education (buy computers but can’t fix the leaking roof). Let’s get after the state leaders to really do their job not just tell us they are the “Education . . .” whatevers.

  • 8. thatwoman  |  November 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Ok did some quick homework and found this article well worth the read

    couple of things I found interesting

    Current Lorain City School District Operating Levy Effective Millage for Residential is 24.79 mills. This translates into approximately $63.27 per month for the tax payer with a $100,000 home.

    2. New operating millage sought, if any, and what percentage increase and dollars per $100,000 increase from current millage that represents.

    New Operating Millage sought is a 10-year, $6M per year Emergency Levy which translates into 9.12 mills. This will cost the tax payer with at $100,000 home approximately $23.28 per month.

    that is EXTRA right I a reading this correctly a 1/3 increase!!! that right

    also on top of that we are paying

    Current construction millage is 4.04 mills which costs the tax payer with a $100,000 home approximately $10.31 per month.

    Current permanent improvement levy is .448 mills which costs the tax payer with a $100,000 home approximately $1.14 per month.

    The school district has gone from 29.7% poverty in 1998 to currently around 84%

    Now I admit to playing catch up I wasn’t going to vote remember…… but I can see WHY the levy failed in the amount of money going out of pocket these are based on 100,000 dollar homes. my taxable value is around 65 thousand .so obviously I pay less BUT then again it equates that since I can’t afford top live in a taxable 100,000 home I can afford less out of my income tooooooooooooooooo Oh dear viscious circle

  • 9. thatwoman  |  November 5, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    so bear with me here if in 2008 the median income was http://www.city-data.com/income/income-Lorain-Ohio.html
    was around 35,000 (and is that before or after deductions)

    and we all know what has happened since 2008 then hey paying out $1,176.00 per year on a system that isn’t getting the job done according to the state report card is a chunk of money – yes I think that is a possible reason for the failure…….

  • 10. Dennis Lamont  |  November 5, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Not necessarily the rail situation but it is in the same basket as Education, Infrastructure, Public Transportation, Public Safety, Higher poverty rates, Ten Percent Unemployment ….please notice that this lack of credibility cuts across party, city and county lines. It should be very interesting to see what is left (what we can pay for) if and when the magicians finish fitting government to the money available …. any bets HUD and Road Construction are not touched ????

    from underdabus

  • 11. Loraine Ritchey  |  November 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I agree and the non mathmetician that I am did some calculation
    so on an income of 35,000 the school levys alone will cost that person 3.36 percent of their yearly income

    Now based on a $250,000 a year income (sigh) a similar percentage would be $8,400 out of pocket

    now the poor old $35,000 a year person $33, 824.00 left to outlay on all things such as food other taxes, living expenses etc.

    where as even with the 3.36 percentage taken out of the 250,000 a year income they still have 241.600 to spend .is it any wonder those that have cannot relate to those that are struggling … and a few extra bucks is inconsequential…….. nope time to live in my world I am thinking and also not just LCS …..

  • 12. Dennis Lamont  |  November 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    add to it that they (we) have to spend over $6000 to maintain and operate and insure a car to get to work each and every year…..and health insurance …and…and…and. Scaling back a community to fit these standards sure makes it hard to achieve the American Dream.

  • 13. Loraine Ritchey  |  November 5, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    YUP!!! I think those that can afford accountants don’t know how those that can’t afford or need an accountant really live…….. 😦 and just how much an extra 10 12, 23 dollars a month means in the grand scheme of our living…….. on top of that you have every other group wanting more money …….

    So from the LCS perspective I would ask them for the next levy request just what are you going to do to equalize the balance sheet…..what are you going to do to show that the very little pittance “the median income received” taxpayer that literally taking a bigger share from our already shrinking funds is going to be worthwhile and beneficial…..

    ……… and don’t give me the old hoopla about my property not being worth as much – whilst true that also depends on other aspects as well ( no. of foreclosures in the neighborhhod number of abandoned buildings and city services lacking and yes they too want more money to prop those things up………… soooooooooooooooooo

    Show me why my sacrifice is going to be worth the cost to my particular “living wage”-

    The numbers from LCS said it all
    ” school district has gone from 29.7% poverty in 1998 to currently around 84%

    Ok that tells me the if 250,000 is a reasonable wage for the “upper middle class” … middle class should be say 150, for the guage of middle class……. and if 84 percent are in poverty what does that tell you the upper poor and lower lower middle class who own propety are also dimishing and that is representative by your LCS district

    I don’t work well with numbers ( product of new math) SIGH but I can tell we have very little coming in in Lorain, too many hands out wanting more- and the quailty of the product is lacking — so convince me of the upper poor that I should give you a 1/3 increase for an operating levy? my blog is yours!

  • 14. Dennis Lamont  |  November 5, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    Don’t forget that the retirement numbers increase every year … and fewer can afford to leave …. lowering your average incomes and tax revenues …and other then pride of place (?) they (include me in this) have no stake in education.

    FIXED INCOMES …and I bet they (we) vote more

  • 15. Loraine Ritchey  |  November 5, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Well as I said they all need to come and live in our world and address what they find…. I was amazed when I started to add it all up I know my husband has been complaining for months and months but I don’t handle the check book or finances seeing it in black and white – well let us say I will understand when I hear the “bitchin from the kitchin” as he pays the bills……….

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