State takeover closer after levy defeat

The Greene County school system will have to borrow money from the state in the fall, although that amount hasn’t been determined, Treasurer Eric Beavers said.

Fairborn, Centerville and Jefferson Twp. all failed in their quest for new revenue.

The Ohio Department of Education placed Fairborn in fiscal caution Jan. 14.

Beavers said it’s “highly probable” that Fairborn will place another emergency levy with a higher millage on the November ballot, but it’s too soon to establish what the millage will be.

“The when and amount we have to borrow from the state will impact the millage,” Beavers said. “The money we borrow has to be paid back within a two-year period, and that’s going to play a factor in the millage request.”

Fairborn projects to have a $4.1 million deficit on June 30, 2014, and Tuesday’s levy would have generated $7 million annually for 10 years — keeping the district fiscally solvent to meet its budgetary needs, school officials said. If passed, the levy would have cost an additional $358.31 a year for an owner of a $100,000 house.

“It’s tough,” Superintendent Dave Scarberry said. “The morale of the people is a little down, but the day still goes on, the kids still come to school, and we’ll still be doing everything we can to educate them and make their day the best we possibly can. We’ll keep plugging along.”

While school officials point to cuts in state funding and unfunded state mandates as the main source of Fairborn’s financial woes, citizens have voiced concerns about the district’s leadership.

“The state should come in, make some cuts and adjustments, and tell us where the problems are,” resident Karen Combs said. “Then, come back to the voters with a much smaller and much shorter levy, and I think voters will pass it.”

School board president Tess Little encouraged both sides of the issue to unite in an effort to strengthen the struggling district.

“We need community support,” Little said. “The schools can’t do it by themselves. We need people to fight for our schools — people who are in the know and understand what it costs to run a school — because we have to pass a levy. The state told us the only way to get out of this is to pass a levy.”

Pay-to-participate fees for middle school/high school sports and other extracurricular activities will increase next year to $500 per student, per sport with no family cap. No other cuts have been determined at this point in time, school officials said.

Combs said threatening cuts is a way for the district to “bully the people of Fairborn into giving them money.”

“We’re through with the whining,” she said. “They have to come to the realization that we’re not going to discuss any more money until they put their house in order over there.”

Centerville officials did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday. On Tuesday night, Superintendent Tom Henderson said a decision on another levy this year will be made by the board.

With seven of the 10 local school districts passing levies, the Dayton area was slightly more successful than its colleagues around the state, according to data provided by the Ohio School Boards Association.

And with half of the school districts — four out of eight — granted new money by their voters, that number is also higher than the statewide percentage of schools that were seeking additional revenue, the data revealed.

Statewide, nearly 60 percent (82 of 137) of the total school issues — new, renewal, bond and income tax — that were on the ballot passed, said Jeff Chambers, OSBA communications director. Of the new money issues, 36 out of 86 (42 percent) passed, while renewals passed at a 90 percent clip (46 of 51).

“We were relatively encouraged by the success rate,” said Damon Asbury, the OSBA director of legislative services. “School districts have been cutting staff and programs for the last several years, and I think communities recognize that their schools are one of the most valuable assets they have. … School districts that were successful told their story well and convinced their voters they deserve their support.”