Board considers operating levy, financial forecast shows deficit spending

by Laura Bednar

Nov. 20 board of education meeting

The Nordonia Hills Board of Education is considering a 5-mill levy:  4 mills for operations and 1 mill for permanent improvements.

Income from the MGM Northfield Park tax settlement ends in fiscal year 2026 and Board President Chad Lahrmer said the district needs to replace that money to continue infrastructure improvements.

Board member Matt Kearney said, “I think we have a lot of work to do to get community support.” He added that if the tax increase were to advance to a vote of the people on the March ballot, the district would have limited time to educate the public.

“I ask that we pause instead of rushing into this,” said Kearney.

Lahrmer disagreed it was rushed, saying, “If the bond issuance [last year] failed we were going to pivot to an operating levy. We’ve been saying that for over a year.”

Board member Jason Tidmore said he didn’t want to wait until the district savings account was low before acting. “It makes sense to get the documents in place,” he said.

Board member Liz McKinley explained that the resolution being voted on would only send the 5-mill levy request to the Summit County Auditor’s office to determine how much money the levy would produce. The board then votes on whether or not to advance it to the ballot.

The resolution passed 4-1; Kearney dissenting.

Five-Year Forecast

Treasurer Kyle Kiffer presented his twice-yearly Five-Year Forecast of the district’s finances from 2024-2028.

Kiffer projects deficit spending every year of the forecast. The district maintains a positive ending cash balance each year except 2028, when the district ends the fiscal year $8 million in the red.

According to Kiffer, by 2026 the district is expected to have a cash balance of almost $8.5 million but by 2028, the cash balance falls to minus-$9.4 million.

Enrollment is projected to decrease from 3,196 students in 2024 to 3,051 students in 2028. Kiffer said this is a trend public school districts are seeing throughout Northeast Ohio. The district receives approximately $1,450 per student from the state. Expenditures per student are estimated to rise from $18,406 in 2024 to $21,616 in 2028.

Nordonia received just over $4 million from the state and federal government through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, created to aid schools during the pandemic. Those dollars were spent as of June 2023.

Kiffer broke down revenues into property tax, public utility property tax, state aid and other revenue, such as tuition. In 2024, He estimates that Nordonia will receive $37.3 million in real estate taxes, $4.3 million in public utility taxes, $9.2 million from the state and almost $7.2 million in the “other” category.

The largest expenditure is personnel, which in 2024 is projected to be $44 million. Services such as transportation contracts, utility costs and school resource officers account for $9.6 million. All other expenditures like supplies, capital outlay and debt account for almost $5.2 million.

The forecast anticipates roughly a 9% increase in health insurance premiums each year through 2028. All expenditure categories are expected to increase and outpace revenue over the period of the forecast.

“We’re going to continue to look at budget cuts and staff reductions every year and try and extend this as far as we can,” said Lahrmer, adding that eventually the district must ask for more money.

School updates

Positively Nordonia, a volunteer group of parents and community members, is starting a drive to stock Nordonia school clinics. The group is asking families to donate single-serve and shelf stable snacks, like cereal bars and mini-Gatorades, trial size toiletries such as toothbrushes, deodorant and toothpaste, socks, underwear and tampons.

Nordonia High School junior Christian Chang was recognized as a National Merit Commended Scholar for his PSAT score, which was among the top 34,000 scores nationwide.

Lee Eaton Intermediate School received a Purple Star award for its support of military members and their families.

The district will pay $76,477 for door and window security laminate on each of the six school buildings and the board of education office.

CVCC grant

The Cuyahoga Valley Career Center received a $9 million CTE Construction Grant through the state of Ohio to build new lab spaces for electrical and HVAC classes. CVCC will also remodel lab spaces for building and property maintenance classes as well as architectural and mechanical design classes.

“The plan is to create additional seats so every student who wishes to attend CVCC in the construction career field can be accepted,” according to a statement from CVCC.

Nordonia’s CVCC board representative Jim Virost said the board planned to vote in December on adding a new program of parks and environment resources, which will instruct in the areas of heavy equipment operation, soil and water conservation, forestry and parks management. ∞