Xenia has emergency levy on ballot

The Greene County district has cut more than 100 jobs and $10 million in three years.

Xenia Community Schools has a 6.5-mill emergency property tax levy on the Nov. 6 ballot that if passed would generate $4.1 million for the district in each of the next five years.

“This levy is a bare-bones cut to keep the doors open,” said Mark Manley, Xenia’s administrative specialist, adding that whether the district closes, “may become the state’s choice.”

The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $199 per year, according to the Greene County Auditor’s Office, and is being requested to avoid an operating deficit by 2014.

However, the financial implications are just part of the levy story for Xenia residents, many of whom have publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the district’s administration.

CUTS, SPENDING

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In the last three years, Xenia schools’ fund balance has gone from $6.7 million in fiscal year 2009 to $836,123 in 2011, according to its five-year forecast submitted to the Ohio Department of Education.

In that time, the district has cut more than 100 employees, including more than 70 teachers; outsourced its transportation, custodial, and maintenance and information technology services departments; closed two elementary schools and reconfigured the use of its two middle schools; and, most recently, cut elementary school music and physical education.

The cuts have amounted to more than $10 million in real and projected cuts, and a roughly $6 million drop in expenditures for fiscal year 2012 as compared to 2011. Xenia spent close to $50 million in 2011 and expects to spend less than $44 million in this fiscal year, according to its most recent five-year forecast.

The Xenia drop in spending is more pronounced — both in total dollars and percentage of district budget — than other financially strapped districts in Greene County.

Fairborn City Schools spent $43 million in 2011, and expects to spend $42 million in 2012, according to the ODE and Beavercreek City Schools spent close to $76 million in 2011, and expects to spend $72.6 million this fiscal year.

LEVIES, TEST SCORES

In August, voters rejected a Xenia schools’ 1.5 percent earned income tax by a margin of 74 percent to 26 percent. It was the second straight levy failure for the district, which also had a 4.8-mill emergency property tax levy fail in November 2011.

The district passed a bond issue in 2009 that will come up for collection in January. The bond paid for the building of five new elementary schools, which also open in January. It will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $86 per year.

The district does not have specific details on what it will do if this fall’s levy passes or fails. However, if possible, the cuts made in August would be among the first considered for reinstatement.

Xenia students have shown improvement on state tests. According to the partial 2011-12 Ohio Report Card, Xenia schools met 15 of 25 indicators compared to 12 of 26 in the previous school year.

However, Xenia still had the fewest number of indicators met among Greene County districts and was tied with Northridge Local Schools at fourth from the bottom among all districts the four-county Dayton area. Just Dayton Public, Jefferson Twp. Local and Trotwood-Madison City schools met fewer indicators than Xenia for 2011-12.

COMMUNITY SENTIMENT

Earlier this year, a group called Voices for Xenia Community Schools circulated a petition that called for the removal of Superintendent Deborah Piotrowski and the nonrenewal of members of the Xenia Board of Education.

The group’s founder, Xenia High School graduate Matt Thomas, cited a lack of communication as chief among the group’s concerns.

Some local residents said the quiet promotion of Manley and hiring of Jill Adams, the daughter of school board member Barbara Stafford, and the raise Piotrowski received this year were examples of this communication lapse.

Manley, who had been working as a teacher, teachers’ union representative and district spokesman, was made full-time administrative specialist in August. His pay increased from $72,000 to $87,000, but is based on the same daily rate. He went from working 183 days to 220 days per year.

“It was part of a central office reorganization that will yield a $496,000 annual savings,” said Manley, noting Adams was a part of that restructuring. “Eight positions were eliminated and five were consolidated.”

Piotrowski received an educational stipend of $11,913.07 this year, according to Treasurer Brad McKee. Her salary is now $136,913.07.

Piotrowski declined to be interviewed for this story.

Although it may mean more cuts, there is a concern that some may vote against the administration via the levy. But Manley said he hopes that won’t be the case.

“People vote for a lot of reasons, with their pocketbook, whether they are happy or not,” he said. “But the children and their learning will suffer with a no vote.”

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