GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio – Already facing shortened school days and cuts in programs, parents and students of the Garfield Heights City School District will have to brace themselves for more potential bad news on Thursday.
In December, the district announced a realignment plan that resulted in the elimination of music, arts, physical education and library programs for grades K-5 and a reduction of these programs at the middle school level.
The initial reductions also eliminated lunch periods for K-8 students (though the district said that bagged lunches would be available at dismissal for those who qualify for free lunch).
The plan went into effect on Jan. 17 reducing the length of the school day to the state minimum (5.5 hours), making dismissal as early as 1:10 p.m. for some schools.
The Garfield Heights school board has a scheduled meeting at the school’s board offices at 6 p.m. on Thursday night. School officials told NewsChannel5 education reporter Debora Lee that the board will consider additional cuts at the meeting.
The school has an upcoming income tax levy on the March 6 primary ballot. They are asking voters to approve a levy for emergency requirements of the school district.
Voters in Garfield Heights will be asked: “Shall a levy be imposed by the Garfield Heights City School District for the purpose of providing for the emergency requirements of the school district in the sum of $4,100,000 and a levy of taxes to be made outside the ten-mill limitation estimated by the county fiscal officer to average 9.4 mills for each dollar of valuation, which amounts to 94 cents for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for a period of five years, commencing in 2012, first due in calendar year 2013?”
Even if voters approve the levy, the district will not be able to collect it until January of 2013, so it is not likely that the cuts made in December can be reversed any time soon.
Like many other school districts Garfield Heights is faced with several problems:
• No new operating levies have been passed in the district since 1992.
• State test scores for Garfield Heights have dropped significantly. In 1996, the school district was named as a B.E.S.T. school district by the state of Ohio. According to Ohio Department of Education statistics, in 2010-2011, the district met just 10 out of the state’s 26 indicators for performance and the high school was ranked 630 out of 806 public schools for test scores.
• Garfield Heights residents are already paying the 6th highest tax rate in all of Cuyahoga County (cities that pay equal or more include Fairview Park/Berea, Lakewood, Cleveland Heights, South Euclid, University Heights and Shaker Heights). According to the Ohio Department of Taxation, approximately 48 percent of the residential tax in the city (in 2010) per $100,000 is paid towards the school district.
Levy supporters have been calling residents urging them to vote for the March 6 levy. Earlier this week the school district put a list of “facts vs. rumors” on the school’s website.
You can read the list here .
A statement issued in the district’s January newsletter by the school board read:
“Each member of the Board of Education has been committed to balancing the district’s budget per Ohio law. And with no voter-approved operating funding from the community for the last twenty years, our efforts to keep our budget balanced have grown increasingly challenging. The Board will continue to keep its commitment to a balanced budget.”
There is no word yet on whether the school district could face state takeover if the March levy is not passed.