Board discusses plans following levy failure

by Laura Bednar

April 22 board of education meeting

Nordonia Hills Board of Education members discussed the district’s next steps after a 5-mill levy failed in March.

The levy – four mills for operations and one for permanent improvements – would have produced $7.3 million per year. Board President Chad Lahrmer said he thinks the levy was under publicized, and people claimed the district sneaked it onto the ballot.

The Ohio Auditor of State restricts a school board from using public funds to support a levy. Additional regulations restrict board members from actively supporting or opposing levies in their capacity as elected officials.

Lahrmer suggested consulting the district’s attorney to see if the board can be more vocal, not to suggest a “yes” or “no” vote but “to make sure the community knows there is a levy on the ballot.”

Board member Matt Kearney said he thought the levy failed due to outside economic pressure. He cited Summit County property appraisals rising and business closures leading to layoffs.

Board Vice President Liz McKinley said the levy’s wording was confusing. “The ballot language did not reflect what was shared with us,” she said.

She said a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to educate students, and the district needs to make that “more visible or better understood.”

Board member Jason Tidmore said the district must explain to the community “why the sense of urgency is what it is.” He added that funds from the MGM tax settlement continue for only two years.

He suggested two school board members meet with community members who voted against the levy to find out why.

“I feel like there are so many voices that got lost in all of this,” said board member Amy Vajdich, noting she thought some families with children were not represented.

Lahrmer suggested separating the levies on the ballot so community members could vote individually on money for operations, permanent improvements plus safety and security.

McKinley said operations is the largest millage and if the levies were separate, people may just vote for the lowest amount, leaving them with only funds for improvements or safety.

“Is that what we need the most?” asked Vajdich, asking if other districts had success in separating levies. No board member had an answer.

Lahrmer suggested adding a 1-mill levy for safety and another mill for permanent improvements on the November ballot. Tidmore said he was hesitant to put anything on November’s ballot.

Kearney suggested waiting until one of the current bond levies falls off, which would be at the end of 2025, before going back to voters.

The board tabled the discussion.

Financial update

Treasurer Kyle Kiffer gave a brief update on the district’s tax settlement from MGM. He said to date, the district has received $11.8 million. In the 2025-26 school year, Nordonia will receive another $2.9 million.

Lahrmer said the Nordonia scholarship granting organization, a nonprofit created to provide funding for kindergarten tuition, received $16,000 from 24 donors between April 2023 and June 2023, covering tuition for five students.

From July 2023 to the present, Lahrmer said there have been 139 donors, and the organization has $96,000 cash on hand. This will cover the 13 scholarship applications received for the 2024-25 school year.

Staffing changes

The high school’s family and consumer science teacher was laid off as part of the “reduction in force” portion of the district’s cost reduction plan.

“We’re not at the point where we can build that program over time,” said Superintendent Casey Wright.

He said an intervention specialist left for another district after working at Nordonia for two years. “We are going to lose some good people because people know we’re laying off,” said Wright.

Student spotlight

The Rushwood Ohio Music Educators Association All-State Children’s choir, made up of 21 Nordonia students, performed two songs.

Nordonia Middle School students Daisy Hunt, Madeline Newyear, Alex Ring and Ava Oravec were recognized as state qualifiers for the Power of the Pen writing competition.

The Nordonia Middle School Science Olympiad team took second place in the regional competition and earned 51 individual medals. Science Olympiad is a science, technology, engineering and math competition involving more than 6,000 teams in 50 states. ∞