Ravenna schools retire debt

By Micah Panczyk Record-Courier staff writer Published:

"One of the most exciting things a school district can do is make its final debt payment," said board President Mark Hairston at a reception in the high school Media Center that followed the board's regular meeting. "We are now debt-free."

The district's bond was burned to ash.

The district made its final payment of $435,000 on Dec. 2.

Since 1993, voters have helped lift the district from a 3.5 million debt by approving a trio of levies. Since that year, voters have ratified a 6.65-mill permanent operating levy that generates $1.5 million annually and a 2.9-mill levy that musters $375,000 each year.

In addition, voters approved a 9.5-mill continuing levy to replace an expiring 5-year emergency levy. The approval continued the flow of $2.25 million annually into the district's treasury.

In recognition of these successes, Superintendent Phil Warner received the board's President's Gold Award.

"It is an honor to be recognized, but certainly an honor that goes to our entire administrative team," he said. "It is with everyone's efforts that we have been able to accomplish so much in the past four and a half years."

Representatives from the Ravenna Teachers Association and the Ohio Association of Public School Employees accepted honors for the role their colleagues played in bringing the district from debt. Record-Courier Editor Roger DiPaolo and News Editor Lorie Hershberger were also honored for their parts in communicating the district's appeal for support to the public.

In business action, the board approved salary increases for Superintendent Phil Warner and Treasurer Joe Funai and passed a resolution of intent to extend Warner's contract in February for another three years.

Warner, whose present contract expires on July 31, 1999, will see a 6.7 percent raise from $70,500 and $75,525 annually, retroactive to August 1 of this year. Funai's 4.4 percent raise, effective January 1, will lift his annual salary from $53,000 to $55,416.

The board was supposed to review these salaries in August, but delayed this because two of the board's five seats were scheduled to change in November and January, Hairston said. Joanne Newhauser assumed after this fall's election the unexpired seat vacated in September by Bob Fankhauser, who moved to a home outside the area the district serves. Newly elected member Lisa Karaffa will join the board in January.

Last summer, the board negotiated three-year contracts with the district's teaching and non-teaching employees _ agreements that furnish 2.5, 3.3 and 3.8 percent annual salary increases in each of the respective years, according to board member Connie Mansfield.

In other business, the board accepted a $20,000 pledge from the Ravenna Area Rotary Club, funds earmarked to build a baseball field on the district's Chestnut Street property. The district has embarked on a campaign to raise $2 million to build a host of athletic facilities on 88 acres off of North Chestnut Street in Ravenna _ facilities that would complement a new high school the district seeks to build by 2000.

"We are grateful to the Rotary Club for their generosity and willingness to take the lead in our campaign," Hairston said. "We hope others will follow this lead."

The board also approved by-laws drafted for the district's education foundation. Should these proposed by-laws be approved by the Ohio Attorney General's Office, the foundation would allow civic groups and community members to make tax-deductible donations to the campaign.

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