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EP Schools touting passage of levy

EAST PALESTINE– When Chris Neifer took over as superintendent, he wanted to stress communication and transparency within the district. So when he held a state of the schools speech Wednesday, it was to inform the community about the academic and financial situations of the district.

A key issue discussed was the .5 percent earned income tax levy that will be on the Nov. 5 ballot. At the full valuation of the levy, which would take about 18 months to collect, the district would receive approximately $626,000 per year. The levy excludes investment and retirement income.

“The state of Ohio is telling us to implement these new things, but they are flat funding us,” Neifer said. “Our system is set up for local tax dollars to support the schools. At this point, we are coming to you and saying we need help.”

Neifer made an example that it would cost someone on a $50,000 annual salary $250 per year over a term of five years. He then simplified that to $9.61 bi-weekly.

The state also sets a per pupil cost of doing business at $6,020 per pupil. It then looks at what the community is able to pay per student. For East Palestine, the state pays about 64 percent per kid, which is $3,865.

This means that the local share is about 36 percent or $2,155 per kid. Because of this cost, the district has lost $4.5 million in the last five years to open enrollment students.

He stressed that every dollar would support the school district, which would include quality of teaching and productive educational experiences in the schools.

“We want to maintain the things we are doing,” Neifer said. “And to improve upon the things that we want for our kids, it takes resources. I’m not sure where else to get those resources.”

Neifer discussed House Bill 166 and how the wellness and success funds that were provided are targeted money, which can only be used for the “physical and mental well-being of students”. Those funds cannot be spent to pay teacher salaries or for curriculum supplies.

He explained that locally, East Palestine provides 18.1 percent, the state provides 65.6 percent and the federal government and other types of grant funds make up the other 16.3 percent of the funding.

Neifer displayed the local tax effort as well, compared to other school districts. East Palestine is paying 28 percent less tax than its primary peers and 33.5 percent less than local peers according to last year’s performance audit.

He said it is important to be open about the fiscal reality facing the schools.

“This is about getting everyone information,” Neifer said. “We can’t make good decisions about things if we aren’t informed.”

slendak@mojonews.com

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