Crestwood hopes to pass first operating levy since 2012 at May 4 election

The Crestwood Local School District is looking to pass its first operating levy since 2012 and only the second since 1992 during Portage County’s Primary/Special Election on May 4. 

Issue 6 is a 1.25% earned income tax over the course of 10 years that, if passed, would go into effect in January 2022.

The funds from the levy would make up for the shortfall in the Crestwood budget, bridging the gap between what the state and federal governments pay and the actual cost of operating the school, according to information provided by Crestwood Schools Superintendent Dave Toth. 

Treasurer Sarah Palm said the district’s expenditures are expected to be greater than revenue by $374,231 in fiscal year 2021 and will continue to increase until fiscal year 2025, when all cash reserves are expected to be exhausted, leaving the district with an overall end balance of -$2,429,817.

“As with any school district in the state of Ohio, we receive a biweekly Foundation Funding from the state of Ohio,” Palm said in an email. “Last year the governor reduced the amount of funding that each district receives in order to balance the state’s budget. In the case of Crestwood Local Schools, we saw a reduction of -$373,068.” 

Annual operating expenses include staff salaries, textbooks, equipment, food service, transportation, fuel, maintenance and repairs.

The proposed levy would generate approximately $3,635,977 annually. This levy is needed to correct the district’s shrinking cash balance, which currently sits at $4,536,745 for fiscal year 2021, and is forecasted to continue decreasing until depletion in 2025.

School districts are permitted to levy the tax, subject to voter approval, on an alternate tax base that includes only wages, salaries and other compensation, and net earnings from self-employment. 

Crestwood Local Schools has only passed an operating levy twice since 1992, leaving the district at the second lowest amount of property tax millage in the county, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation School District Data.

If the levy fails in May, the district would have to consider additional budget cuts and other avenues of increasing revenue, including: the elimination of busing for students in 9th-12th grade and K-8th grade who live within two miles of their school building; increased pay-to-play program fees, including sports and band, which are currently $200 per program; and the elimination of “non-essential” electives, like art and music. 

However, without a significant change to the state funding formula, the issue of expenditures increasing more than revenues will continue. Therefore, the district will likely have to place another operating levy on the ballot. 

The polls will open at 6:30 a.m. and remain open until 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. Absentee ballots are also available. The last day to request one by mail is May 1 at noon, though voters are encouraged to get their absentee ballot request in by April 27 to ensure enough time for mail delivery. All absentee mail ballots must be postmarked by May 3 or received at the Board of Elections Office by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.