Ledgemont Board Gives it One Last Shot
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
There was no discussion and no one in the audience said a word when Ledgemont Schools Board of Education unanimously voted Monday to place a five-year, 14.7-mill emergency levy on the May 7 special election ballot.
The resolution the five-member board passed stated the district needs to raise $1.5 million per year for five years to avoid an operating deficit.
If passed, the levy would yield $450.19 for each $100,000 of property valuation, according to the Geauga County?Auditor’s Office.
Superintendent Julie Ramos laid out the reality for the crowd of about 45 later in the meeting.
“This is a do-or-die situation for Ledgemont,” she said. “This emergency levy has a limit — five years — and it’s not going on forever. It will allow replacement of the things we had to cut.”
She added, “Either we want a school district in out community or we don’t. We have to show we are willing to support our schools and our children.”
After the vote, Montville Township resident Alexa Holbert asked if the Ohio Department of Education had required the levy to run in May or if it could have waited until the November general election.
Board President Rick Loveland explained the Ledgemont Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, which was created to oversee the district’s finances, has required the board to create a five-year recovery plan.
“It wouldn’t have looked favorable for the school to push it out to November,” he said.
When asked, Ledgemont Treasurer Kelly Moore said it will cost the district $7,500 to $10,000 to place the levy on the May ballot.
Board member Bill Swan said if the levy passes, the board plans to get the district back on a firm financial footing and restore some programs that have been cut.
Board member Cathy Hadley-Samia added, however, it is too early to know what would be reinstated.
Loveland explained the state loan is interest-free and is basically an advance on state foundation money the district would have received over the next two years.
“They’re giving us our own money,” he said. “The good news is that, for this particular levy, there is an end to it. The expectation is that it goes away and we’ll be on a good footing.”
The 580-student district, which serves residents in Thompson and Montville townships, has been struggling financially for several years and currently has three outstanding loans from the Ohio Department of Education.
The state had placed the district in fiscal emergency status in 2010 and loaned it $2.17 million to continue operations.
Under state law at the time, that loan had to be paid back in two years — in this case, by the end of 2013.
The law, however, has since changed and the district was granted an extension on its second $1.7 million loan to be paid over the next four years.
The state has not made a decision yet on when the district has to pay back its most recent $1.114 million advancement.
Currently, Ledgemont is repaying the first $2.1 million loan out of its state foundation money, ODE School Administration Fiscal Consultant Bob Foss said in September.
Payments for the $2.1-million loan are $45,208 twice a month, Foss said.
The district has been working with the oversight commission, but still was in danger of being short of cash at the beginning of this school year.
In November 2012, voters rejected a 3.4-mill emergency levy — 1,197 to 1,087 — which Hadley-Samia said at the time would not have been enough to get the district out of fiscal emergency.
“The right thing to do now is to keep our district viable,” Loveland said Monday.
Even with the cuts they have endured, the district provides a good education and lifelong experiences for the two townships’ children, he added.
“I urge you to fight for the levy and contact your legislators about your concerns,” Loveland said.
Swan added, “We’re all going to fight to keep this district alive and work to get it on solid ground. This district is absolutely worth fighting for.”
A motivated election committee is vital to the effort, Ramos said.
“I’ve put out a plea for a chair of the campaign,” she said. “If you know someone who is interested, that would be great.”