by Laura Bednar
May 17 board of education meeting
Independence School Board Treasurer Eric Koehler presented his five-year forecast for fiscal years 2022-2026.
The projected revenue in 2022 is $19.3 million; $18.7 million in 2023; $18.8 million in 2024; $16.8 million in 2025 and almost $15 million in 2026. These revenues are in addition to each year’s beginning cash balance. Every fiscal year through 2026 ends with a positive cash balance but includes deficit spending, as each year’s expenditures are more than the revenue collected.
The first chance to renew the district’s current 9-mill emergency levy is May 2023. If passed, it would generate $2.2 million in 2025 and $4.5 million in 2026. If voters pass a new emergency levy, it is expected to collect an additional $1.2 million in 2025 and $2.5 million in 2026 As of now, Koehler said the proposed levy would be 4.7 mills.
Koehler explained the impact of recently passed Ohio House Bill 126. This prohibits the board of education from filing a complaint against a residential or agricultural property to receive more tax dollars. It also prevents the board from filing an appeal of a Cuyahoga County Board of Revisions’ decision, and prohibits settlement agreements over property value complaints. The board can still challenge a commercial property owner who asks to lower property taxes.
Tax Increment Financing, a designation for commercial properties that distributes portions of property taxes to the school and city infrastructure projects, makes up the majority of the district’s “other revenue,” which includes interest on district investments and property tax settlements.
In Koehler’s forecast, he wrote, “Future TIF revenue is projected to decrease and remain flat as a result of the district’s emergency levy millage being rolled back by the budget commission and the potential of increased refunds back to taxpayers.”
Koehler projected $450,000 in taxpayer refunds each year from 2022-2026. He said TIF valuation has decreased $1.7 million but predicts growth in new residential construction.
New coaching staff
The board approved contracts for new middle school football coaches. Three long-time middle school football and softball coaches – Joe Penna, Garry Moore and Jim Wotowiec – will not return.
Superintendent Ben Hegedish explained that coaching contracts are for one year and are not automatically renewed for the next season.
“The coaches we are losing were very strong emotionally supportive coaches,” said board member Lynne Laski. “I think we lost a big asset to our school community.”
Said Hegedish, “Cohesiveness and collaboration from the youth program, through middle school and into high school is an important part of any program development. In this case, our head coach/varsity staff working with our athletic director and principals wanted to go in a different direction for that program development.”
Board member Carrie Sears said the relationship between middle school and high school sports was not cohesive.
“It’s been unfortunately seven years of it not working,” she said. “This decision was made based on other reasons, it has nothing to do with [the coaches’] character.”
During the public participation portion of the meeting, community member Jim Reilly said, “We had coaches who were beyond coaches, they were role models to the kids. … I’m worried about the future of our sports program, especially football.”
As of press time, Independence Middle School Athletic Director Mike Gruber said he did not have a comment.
Three new teachers were hired full-time for next school year. Jennifer Krysiak has been a long-term kindergarten and a second-grade substitute teacher at Independence Primary School. She will be full-time at IPS. Helen Lindsay taught at Garfield Heights High School for 17 years and will be an English teacher at the high school. Amanda Price, who taught at Field High School in Brimfield, will also be an IHS English teacher.
The board recognized Roseann Roberts’ retirement after 15 years working in the cafeteria. ∞