Wellington: School levy ‘likely’ this November

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JONATHAN DELOZIER
REPORTER

A permanent improvement levy for the Wellington Schools will likely be on November’s ballot, according to district superintendent Ed Weber.

The possibility has been discussed at several board of education meetings over the past year as well as during last March’s inaugural State of Wellington breakfast.

Weber and district officials have said the levy would fall around 1.95 mills, which would raise roughly $400,000 annually.

Recent property valuation changes by the Lorain County auditor’s office could move prospective millage up or down, Weber said.

“I’d say it is likely but we still have a ways to go in the planning process,” he said. “We’re going to really look at it this spring. I don’t think the county has certified the new valuations yet but as soon as that is done it will give us a much better idea of what amount we should be asking for.”

There has never been a permanent improvement levy in the Wellington school district, with funds for related projects coming through an annual general fund transfer.

During the 2017-2018 school year, roughly $600,000 was spent on such measures.

Permanent improvement projects encompass any physical material with a shelf life of five years or more and cannot be used for costs such as employee salaries or utility bills.

Voters approved a 36-year bond issue in 2012 that paid for 63 percent of McCormick Middle School’s $19.7 million construction.

Work a levy could help pay for includes improvements at Wellington High School’s Dickson Street stadium, parking lot and roof repairs, a new HVAC system at Westwood Elementary School, and modernization of classrooms in all three district buildings.

One classroom in each school is set to be modernized this year to give officials a better grasp of how much it would cost to refurbish multiple rooms or an entire school, Weber said.

“Teachers wrote proposals for their classrooms and one was chosen from each school,” he said. “We’d like to make over every room but that’s just not affordable at this time. We’re trying to put together comprehensive building improvement plans and learning about total cost through hard numbers goes a lot farther than just guessing.”

The district currently sits on a $4.2 million cash reserve and is projected to essentially break even until 2021 when projections call for $13.95 million in expenses and $13.61 million in revenue.

Projected deficit spending nearly doubles in 2022 to $695,000.

“We’re not going to run out of money this November but our capital project needs are extensive,” Weber said. “We couldn’t afford all of the repairs that are needed but we can do a few of them while remaining financially responsible. The question is whether we can complete them at a fast enough pace where more repairs aren’t added to the list.”

“We’ve only seal-coated our good lots but haven’t done anything with our lots that are worse off,” he said. “Those lots have to be rebuilt and it makes no sense to put any money into them until we can do them right. That’s the kind of spending decisions we’re making, so perhaps this year will be the best time to ask the community for a levy.”

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