Waterloo Superintendent Andrew Hill said he's often heard people opposed to a new levy ask "What part of 'no' don't you understand?"
He said he's asking district parents and voters what kind of education they want for their children, because he sees a disconnect between what people want the district to provide and what they're willing to pay for.
In Tuesday's special election, the district is seeking approval of a 5.9-mill, five-year levy to avoid an operating deficit. The emergency operating levy would raise $939,557 per year.
Waterloo voters rejected a 5.0-mill additional levy in November that would have generated about $796,200 annually for five years starting in 2012. District officials had to raise the amount of the levy for this election because the district lost a year of collections.
In the past two years the district, which covers Atwater and Randolph townships in southern Portage County, has cut $2 million out of its budget.
"Every year we're just dismantling this great program that people worked hard to establish. We're just taking it apart piece by piece," Hill said.
He said budget and program cuts will get the district through the next school year but the current five-year forecast projects a deficit of $324,000 in fiscal year 2015. But, in fiscal year 2016 the deficit grows to $1.46 million and almost $2.9 million the following year.
"It looks like we could get through the next school year without making additional cuts, but once we roll into the following school year, we don't believe we have enough left to cut to erase that deficit. And we definitely don't have enough to erase the larger following deficits," Hill said. "I believe we will quickly go to fiscal emergency because we need solvency assistance" from the state.
"If state minimums are acceptable, then that's where they are headed," Hill said.
Hill said last week's school funding announcement by Gov. John Kasich doesn't look like it's going to save the district from needing the levy. The governor's plan doesn't include any further reductions in state money, he said, but its affect on Waterloo won't be known until the details are revealed.
"And who knows what it will look like when something finally gets approved" by the Legislature, Hill said.
Budget cuts have led to both teachers and students leaving the district, he said. Teachers are leaving because of concern for their jobs and parents are taking children out because they are looking for higher academic offerings for their children, Hill said.
Further cuts to reach state minimums will affect electives in upper grade levels. For example, the district offers two languages while the state requires only one. Cuts also could mean fewer advanced classes in calculus and math, and cuts in dual credit classes in computers.
"There's nothing left for them to cut. We're out of rabbits we can pull out of the hat," Hill said.
The district has cut busing back to one run each day, instituted "pay-to-play" for sports and extracurricular activities, cut teaching and administrative staff, instituted freezes in base and step pays for teachers and base pay for administrators and changed the employee health plan so members pay a higher percentage of premiums and higher deductibles.
"When you total all those savings up, that's well over $500,000 that these employees have saved for our district. Well over a fourth of the savings in the past two years have come from concessions by employees," Hill said.
"At the end of the day I have faith in this community and faith that they'll do what has to be done," Hill said. He said he had other options, but district officials have done everything they can internally.
"Now it's back in the community's hands to make that decision of what they want the schools to be," Hill said.
District voters may cast ballots from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at their regular polling locations in the Randolph Community Center and Senior Center, 1657 S.R. 44, and the Atwater Town Hall, 1219 S.R. 183.
Waterloo also includes 53 voters in Deerfield A's Split 2 precinct. For this election those voters will vote at the polls for Randolph A, according to Faith Lyon, director of the Portage County Board of Elections.
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