Edison operating levy on Nov. 5 ballot

HAMMONDSVILLE – A 5.9-mill, five-year operating levy for the Edison Local School District is on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The proposal, which would raise an estimated $1.9 million annually for the district, is completely different from previous levy proposals turned down by district voters, according to Superintendent Bill Beattie.

“This levy proposal is completely changed,” said Beattie. “The reason is because we have reduced our expenditures during the last two years by $3 million.”

Beattie said that was accomplished by cutting services, closing buildings and laying off or not hiring replacements when teachers leave or retire.

The district encompasses more than 1,900 students and pupils from Hammondsville, Richmond, Knoxville, Irondale, Pleasant Hill, Amsterdam, Bergholz, Empire, Stratton and other areas in the northern edge of Jefferson County. The levy would fund district operations, including buses, building maintenance, food services, salaries, wages, benefits of employees and utilities.

The levy is needed because the district has lost substantial revenue, according to Beattie, including a loss of more than $2.1 million since 2011. Losses include $700,000 in property taxes garnered from FirstEnergy Corp.; a $470,000 loss due to changes in the way state tax is reimbursed to school districts; and a $949,813 loss in funds from federal stimulus funds.

Beattie said if the proposed levy passes, it will make a difference in district programs.

“Those programs (eliminated) are not coming back even if this levy passes, except for high school busing, which will resume no later than January (if the levy passes),” he said. “Another aspect (affecting district funding) is our district was deemed by the state of Ohio to have the ability to raise more funding through passage of a levy. That’s why we didn’t get any extra funding from the state in the state’s two-year budget.”

Beattie said although the state won’t grant new homestead exemptions for senior citizens, those already granted the exemption are grandfathered in.

Beattie also cited district statistics he hoped voters would take into consideration when voting on the proposal, including that the levy would cost about $72 annually for homeowners whose home has a market value of $60,000 and a homestead exemption, while those residences with a $60,000 market value without a homestead exemption would pay about $124 annually.

The size of he district also is a factor, with Edison Local comprising 208 square miles, while the state average is 67 miles, said Beattie. For comparison, the Steubenville City School District comprises 7 square miles, while Toronto City School District comprises 5 square miles, according to statistics. The statistics also show Edison pays an average of about 46 percent of its annual budget in employee salaries, while the state average is about 56 percent annually.

“I think there’s a misconception out there we pay more for (employees) than other districts,” Beattie said, adding the statistics show that isn’t the case.

The statistics also show Edison spends about 30 percent of its budget for operating expenses, while the state average is nearly 49 percent. Beattie said if voters pass this levy along with the emergency levy set for November of 2014, the district would be in the black.

“If the 5.9 mill levy on Nov. 5 and the emergency levy in November 2014 both, pass we’ll be financially solvent through 2018,” he said.

(Miller can be contacted at mmiller@heraldstaronline.com.)