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Northeast Ohio school districts hunting for more money

We highlight four school districts seeking money from taxpayers.

Parma City School District buildings are so old, the youngest one was built in 1968. If the levy and tax increase passes, Parma Superintendent Dr. Charles Smialek says the school system plans to invest in new buildings and what goes inside them.

“We want flexible learning environments, we want updated technology you know as part of that 21st century classroom, we want a STEM lab that will come as part of these buildings as well,” says Dr. Smialek.

In Portage County, Waterloo Local Schools have experienced nine failed levies. The school system is trying once again, and Superintendent Dr. Shawn Braman wants programming for students to be the focus.

“We’ve had to cut a lot of programs over the past 5-10 years so things like let’s get choir back, let’s get art back, let’s get some foreign language back,” says Dr. Braman.

In Chagrin Falls Exempted Schools, the school board originally wanted to ask for a 7.9 millage rate increase, but due to the pandemic and the hardships it took on local families, they scaled it back to 3.85 mills. An amount that Superintendent Dr. Robert Hunt says will simply allow them to maintain, not grow or expand services.

“We have 3.85 mills falling off in a bond payment that will fall off in December, so essentially this is an additional tax in operations, but it would not increase the taxes for our local residents,” says Dr. Hunt.

In Richmond Heights, they are working to continue momentum gained from the passing of past levies with the continuation of one and a new levy. The school system has been able to push its graduation rate from a “D-ranking” to a “B-ranking”, come off of the Fiscal Caution rank, and is close to opening a new building. Richmond Heights Superintendent Dr. Renee Willis says there is a good reason behind the financial requests.

“The district was poised to be in its strongest financial position in more than 20 years before COVID-19 hit. The budget cuts handed down by Governor DeWine, coupled with the increase of EdChoice Vouchers made it necessary to return to the voters in three years rather than an anticipated four,” says Dr. Willis.

All school leaders 3News spoke with say every cent requested is needed.

“It’s always a difficult time to ask for a tax increase and now there’s some extra considerations with Covid, but at the same time our need is very real,” says Dr. Smialek.

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