Black River Schools push for early levy renewal

By Jonathan Delozier -

A 7.8-mill operating levy renewal for the Black River Schools will look for another stamp of approval from voters Nov. 6.

First passed in 2014 at 8.5 mills, the levy generates $1.6 million annually, or 12 percent of the district’s budget.

The current levy doesn’t expire until 2019, but superintendent Chris Clark said an early renewal is being sought to avoid years in which there will be high turnover among state legislators in Columbus.

If passed this year, the levy would extend to 2024.

“The millage has come down a bit because there’s more parity now in our school district,” said Clark. “Everyone in our three counties is subject to continual tax valuation. When we passed the levy originally, one of the counties was picking up a larger share because another one had a lower tax valuation.”

District lines extend across Lorain, Medina, and Ashland counties with roughly 1,200 students enrolled at Black River High School and the Black River Education Center in Sullivan.

Clark said the the levy has opened the door for the district to stabilize declining enrollment, reintroduce busing at the high school, hire a counselor for elementary and middle school students, and bring back agriculture and STEM programs that had been done away with due to budget cuts.

Other benefits cited were parking lots being resurfaced and the updating of heating and air conditioning units.

“We were having a mass exodus of students because there were things we simply couldn’t offer,” he said. “Middle school is an important transition for any student or person. It’s the change from child to young adulthood. Having a counselor available for them is very, very valuable.”

Two years ago, the district started a facilities commission that focuses on areas such as arts and athletics. At the start of this school year, it had raised about $170,000.

Extra funds from the levy have also helped lower elementary and middle school class sizes from an average of 27 to 20 or 21, Clark said.

“Since we passed this emergency levy, the district has tried to operate within the parameters this community has set,” he said. “This community has been very supportive of some of the changes and items we’ve implemented. We want to continue with those changes. Not knowing how state funding is going to be, this is a Band-Aid. But it’s needed to help up keep operating in a positive fashion.”

Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.

By Jonathan Delozier