Yellow Springs schools has emergency levy on ballot

The Yellow Springs Exempted Village School District has an additional 7.4-mill, five-year emergency levy on the Nov. 6 ballot. The levy would generate $915,000 annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $226 annually.

Superintendent Mario Basora said the levy is needed because “the schools are in imminent financial danger” due to the loss of federal, state and local revenue.

Treasurer Dawn Weller provided financial figures showing the district is receiving $843,683 less this year in combined Tangible Personal Property tax, income tax and state funding than what it received in 2004.

The small Greene County district received $434,135 less in TPP this year, the final year the district will receive it because the state is phasing it out. The school district received $71,482 this year, down from $505,617 eight years ago.

District officials said expenses are outpacing revenues by about $500,000 a year.

Expenses have grown 26 percent annually since 2004, while revenue has increased only 3 percent during that period, Weller said. Its expenses this year total $7.6 million, while it is collecting $7 million in revenue.

“We had a little growth in property tax collections and our open enrollment and that’s the only growth we’ve had,” she said.

The district’s cash balance has declined from a high of $3.8 million in 2005 to $1.6 million this year. That is projected to drop to $4,000 by the end of the 2014-15 school year, Weller said.

The district has not sought additional operating funds from voters in more than a decade.

Voters approved a 1-percent traditional income tax in 2001 and renewed a 8.7-mill, five-year emergency levy in 2010 that generates $1.06 million annually.

The district now collects $1.2 million in income tax, 14 percent less than the $1.4 million it collected in 2002, the first full year of collection.

To deal with its fiscal challenges, staff reductions began in 2007-08 and have continued through attrition, absorptions and cutbacks, officials said.

The district has cut 5.5 teaching positions, four classified positions (bus driver, two aides and a custodian) and one maintenance assistant. On the administration side, a curriculum supervisor position was eliminated.

All staff members have had a pay freeze for two straight school years and now pay a greater percentage of their health insurance, Basora noted.

More than $40,000 in supplemental (coach, advisor) positions have not been filled and contracted services, supplies, materials and equipment budgets have been reduced, he said.

If the levy passes, art, music and physical education classes would be protected and class sizes would stay relatively low compared to surrounding districts, Basora said, declining to identify possible cuts if the levy fails.

The district’s administrators’ average salary for fiscal year 2011 was $74,172, according to the Ohio Department of Education. That is below the state average of $76,037 and the Dayton area average of $83,097. The Dayton Daily News calculated the Dayton area average based on the 40 districts in Montgomery, Greene, Miami and Warren counties.

“I think folks believe our administrative salaries are high but when you compare it around the state and area, we’re not,” Basora said.

The classroom teachers’ average salary was $62,801, which is above both the state average of $57,904 and the $57,136 Dayton area average.

“We have a lot of teachers who have been here a long time and at the top of the salary schedule,” Weller said, noting the district offered a retirement incentive in the 2010-11 school year and several teachers retired.

“That number is going to go down,” she said. “We’re very small so one retirement a year is unusual and we’ve had six or seven.”

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