Edison levy on Feb. 5 ballot

HAMMONDSVILLE – A 9.45-mill operating levy for the Edison Local School District is on the Feb. 5 special election ballot for voters’ consideration.

The levy proposal, which has been turned down by district voters twice, including last November, would fund basic operating expenses for the district, which includes 1,965 students and pupils from Hammondsville, Richmond, Knoxville, Irondale, Pleasant Hill, Amsterdam, Bergholz, Empire, Stratton and other areas in the northern edge of Jefferson County. The levy would fund district operations, including buses, building maintenance, food services, salaries, wages, benefits of employees and utilities, according to Bill Beattie, district superintendent.

“(The levy) is for the normal, day-to-day operations of the school district,” said Beattie.

The district passed an emergency 2.2-mill operating levy in 2009, and the district has lost substantial revenue since, according to Beattie, including more than $2.1 million since 2011. Losses include $700,000 in property taxes garnered from FirstEnergy Corp.; a $470,000 loss due to changes in the way state tax is reimbursed to school districts; and a $949,813 loss in money from federal stimulus funds.

The levy proposal is continuous.

The levy is based on assessed property values, which is 35 percent of market value. A property with a market value of $50,000 without a Homestead Exemption would be assessed at $17,500, and owners would pay an annual tax of $144 in 2013 before dropping to $111 annually in 2015. A property with a Homestead Exemption valued at $50,000 would be assessed at $8,750, and the owner would pay $72 for all of 2013 before dropping to $55 annually in 2015, according to a chart provided by the school district.

Beattie said the district is operating on the same levy value as in 1977. He added this could be the last best opportunity for voters to support the district before more drastic cuts have to be made, including a possible takeover of the district by the state.

“If the levy doesn’t pass we’re in a position next (school) year where will have to cut high school busing for grades nine through 12, as well as close down Pleasant Hill Elementary School,” he said.

Beattie said the district already has cut staff as far as it can, and “We’re going to have to use staffing where it’s needed so the staffing is adequate at each of the buildings,” he said. “We are below the recommended (state) staffing level right now, according to the (state) audit last March.”

Beattie said the final step would be for the state to step in and run the district.

“I think (district) voters should understand this isn’t a ploy or a threat just to pass the levy,” he said, adding more drastic cuts will be forthcoming if the levy proposal fails.

For information on the levy, call (740) 282-0065.