The Kenston Local Board of Education on Monday approved the first of two resolutions required to place a 6.5-mill levy on the May 4, 2021 ballot.

The board unanimously approved the levy, which includes 4.75 mills for operating expenses and 1.75 mills for general permanent improvements, during their regular board of education meeting Monday night.

Discussions on putting a combined levy on the May ballot began during the board’s June 29 meeting, and BOE President Beth Krause explained that discussions on the need for such a levy continued in work sessions until they were able to finalize their need in a work session last week.

“We are intending to put this on the ballet in May, and when it passes, funds will be collected starting the beginning of January 2022,” Dr. Krause said.

District Treasurer Paul Pestello reminded the board that they will have a second resolution to pass once he certifies Monday night’s resolution with the Geauga County Auditor’s Office. He said the second resolution is slated for the board’s Jan. 11, 2021 organizational meeting.

“Once that’s approved, [the combined levy], along with necessary paperwork from our legal counsel, will be delivered to the Board of Elections on or before Feb. 3 to be certified,” he said, “and therefore it would be placed on [the May 4 ballot].”

Mr. Pestello said the combined levy is estimated to bring in just under $4.35 million for operating expenses and just over $1.6 million for permanent improvements per year.

Board Vice President Nesya Gaskins said the board’s levy committee will hold a meeting on Jan. 6, which will be open to the public via Zoom or in person. She said the first meeting will be for organizational purposes, but meetings will be informational from then on.

“Anyone [who] is interested in assisting with that committee, we’re happy to have them,” she said. “Just send us an email, and we’ll take your names down and have you join in.”

Mr. Pestello explained that the 6.5-mill levy will be new millage and not replacement in response to a submitted question from the public, explaining that general operating expenses cover any legal expense within the school systems.

As for the general permanent improvement funds, they “are for any improvement of the district assets that have a useful life of five years or more,” he added. “It would just be to improve, update [or] maintain our current facilities, with respect to permanent improvement dollars. None of those [permanent improvement] dollars can be used for salaries or benefits of employees.”

According to the district’s spending plan, Mr. Pestello said the district is ahead by $1.1 million and their tax collection percentage is running higher than he anticipated due to COVID-19.

“We are also receiving more state foundation money than what I anticipated we were going to receive, based again on the reduction that we saw in May and June,” he added, stating that the district could be as much as $600,000 over their plan with state foundation funding.

While this is good news now, he cautioned the board that they are only halfway through the fiscal year and that the good news does not negate the need for the levy.

“As you recall, last May is when we took – or suffered – significant reduction,” he said of the district’s initial $791,418 cut in state funding due to COVID-19. By July, the district was able to recover about $460,000 back due to House Bill 164.

“For now, I think we’re in a very good financial position,” Mr. Pestello said. “The fact that we’re over plan certainly does assist us to some degree, but certainly doesn’t change the fact that we need to be on the ballot, and it doesn’t change the millage numbers that we’ve been looking at.”

Sam Cottrill started reporting for the Times in February 2019 and covers Auburn, Bainbridge, Bentleyville and Chagrin, Kenston, Solon and West Geauga schools. She graduated from Kent State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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