The Lakewood Board of Education took its first official step toward placing a 3.9-mill operating levy before voters in May.
It wasn’t much of a surprise to board members, who’ve known for a while about the district’s financial woes, stemming from cuts in state funding and dwindling property values.
The board agreed to pass a measure on first reading to file paperwork with the Cuyahoga County Auditor’s Office by its Jan. 27 deadline for the May 7 election.
Superintendent Jeff Patterson recently told Lakewood Patch that the levy would cost owners of a $100,000 home $10 per month.
“We’re very strategic about the 3.9 mills because we want to make sure we’re financial able to do things we want to do and keep the excellent programs we have now,” he said.
Board president Ed Favre said that the 6.9-mill levy passed in 2009 has been “wiped out” by cuts made by the state.
“We’re going down this path of inevitability,” he said.
The district made $4 million in cuts last year — however many of the layoffs were reversed in the fall — to offset those state reductions.
“Work has been redistributed and other staff members have taken on additional responsibilities,” Favre said. “We can’t be waiting for the unconstitutional school funding problem in Ohio to correct itself. We have to take control of this situation and do the best we can for our kids.”
Christina McCallum will co-chair the levy campaign along with Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers, who is a former school board member.
McCallum spoke out at Tuesday’s meeting in support of the levy.
“We all know that the schools have faced increasingly difficult choices in the last several years,” she said. “Lakewood City Schools has done an excellent job of managing and adjusting to these financial changes.”
Last year, Patterson hosted a series of public community meetings around the city where residents voiced their opinions on programs and services that shouldn’t be cut — including arts, technology, music and sports.
Those programs were spared during the 2012 round of $4 million in cuts.
“If we’re not successful, we’re going to have to look at some additional reductions,” Patterson said. "We can continue to have an excellent school district without asking for more than we need to ask.”
He said, should the voters OK the measure, the district wouldn’t need to go back to voters for at least three years, “unless there was some great, unforeseen tragedy.”
“We will take the next few months to talk about this important tax issue,” Patterson added on Tuesday.