Ohio

Local School District Defends Controversial State Bailout

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On April 27, Media Trackers Ohio reported about three Ohio public school systems accepting emergency bailouts from the State of Ohio because they were unable to meet their financial obligations, and were on the state’s “fiscal emergency” list.

All three schools — Bellaire City Schools, Ledgemont Local Schools, and Cloverleaf Local Schools – had been placed under the financial supervision of the Office of the Auditor of State, currently held by Republican Dave Yost.

In each of the three school districts requesting additional taxpayer money in the form of disbursements from the state’s Catastrophic Expenditures Account, teachers’ salaries were significantly above those of the median local taxpayer. Data collected by the Ohio Department of Education showed average teachers’ salaries in the Cloverleaf School District increasing by twenty-one percent over five years, while median wages in the district fell.

Media Trackers Ohio contacted Cloverleaf Local Schools Community Information Coordinator John Gladden for comment, but did not receive any answers in time for publication.

After over a week of silence from Gladden, or any other officials from Cloverleaf Local Schools, the school replied to our request that they explain the emergency loans they asked for from the State of Ohio Controlling Board.

According to Gladden, Cloverleaf Schools has cut more than $5 million dollars from its budget since the end of fiscal year 2009, consolidating three elementary schools into one building, renegotiating teachers’ contracts to ask teachers to pay a larger percentage of their own healthcare costs and temporarily freeze automatic “step” wage increases, and many more austerity measures.

The state-appointed Fiscal Oversight Board has directed Cloverleaf Local Schools to find more areas which could be more efficient, to the tune of one million dollars in proposed cuts and savings.

“The cuts touched every department in every building,” Gladden wrote in the e-mail, dated May 4, 2012.

Gladden notes that, due to the fiscal emergency status, the teachers’ union agreed to increase the share of healthcare premiums to be paid by certified staff, from 2.84 percent to 15 percent.

“Cloverleaf is doing more with less,” Gladden concludes.

Gladden concedes that the district’s taxpayers have been shouldering an increasingly heavy burden over the past five years, noting that “the U.S. economy is still recovering from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It is a challenging climate for individuals, businesses, and publicly funded institutions like schools.”

In November 2011, Cloverleaf Local Schools placed an emergency levy request on the ballot which would have increased property taxes for the typical homeowner by almost $700. The measure was defeated by a nearly two-to-one margin.

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