The new year brings a levy request for Ravenna residents, the first time the school district has sought an operating levy in eight years.
Dennis Honkala, superintendent of the Ravenna School District, addressed City Council on Monday, listing the upcoming levy request as part of an update on the school district.
He said the levy is expected to appear on the ballot in November. Though he doesn't know how many mills the levy will be, saying that decision will be made in the spring, he said it will probably be a combination levy of operating funds and permanent improvements.
"We may add an extra mill for school safety," Honkala said. "We need to be proactive, and unfortunately, those needs cost money."
He said he understands residents are struggling but "unfortunately it's the only avenue we have to increase revenue."
The district has been doing what it can to reduce expenses. Recently, the district "refunded," or refinanced, its debt for the new high school. The new school cost $26 million, and 47 percent of that was paid through a bond issue residents approved in 2006.
Since the district must split the project in two rounds, he estimated that the initiative would save around $1 million, with residents and the district achieving the savings.
The district's teachers and non-certified employees both recently extended their contracts, agreeing to pick up another 5 percent of their health care costs and freeze wages.
And the district has agreed to close Tappan Elementary School on Bennett Avenue at the end of the school year. Honkala told council that retirements mean that no teachers are expected to lose their jobs. He said the move was a matter of being fiscally responsible.
"We can't continue to spend $32 million when we have a $26 million budget," he said.
The district hopes to rent the facility out. Hiram College also plans to rent the district's building on Walnut Street for a business incubator, he said. The city also agreed to lease Gilchrist Field from the district for soccer.
He told council that the old high school is about two-thirds demolished. The contractors, he said, work from the inside out, removing wood, recycling steel and setting bricks aside for recycling.
He said bricks will be set aside for residents who have contacted the district's business services department, but no bricks will be distributed during the demolition process.
He said a time capsule found in the building will be put in a showcase, and items from 2010, the year the new high school opened on North Chestnut Street, will be added to the showcase as well.
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