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Cleveland Hill School Board approves $30.1 million budget

A $30.1 million budget that will raise the tax levy by 3.49 percent was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Cleveland Hill School Board.

The proposed budget, which is subject to approval May 21 by voters, would reduce staffing by three full-time positions because of retirements and would continue all current programs in the district. The budget also would add the district’s first new reading program for elementary school students since 1999.

Like many other schools, Cleveland Hill received an unexpected boost in state financial aid for next year’s budget. While the district was able to use some of the additional funding to reduce the increase in the tax levy, officials still point out that their overall state revenue is below 2008-09 levels.

“Yes, things have gotten better, but they’re still not to where they were,” said Superintendent Jon MacSwan.

Cleveland Hill is expected to receive about $12.2 million in state revenue for the 2013-14 school year, which is an increase over this year but still below 2008-09’s total of $13.1 million. While state aid accounted for 47.4 percent of the district’s revenue in 2008-09, next year’s funding will pay for only 40.8 percent.

The decrease in state aid came as a result of a “gap elimination adjustment,” which began a few years ago to help balance the state budget by taking money from schools. Cleveland Hill estimates it lost about $4.7 million in additional revenue over the past five years because of the state’s formula.

To make up the difference, the district is tapping into its reserve fund balance and taking $3.5 million, which accounts for 11.7 percent of total revenues.

“If we didn’t have that money available, as bad as it has been over the past four years, it would have been much worse,” said Business Manager Dennis Corsaro. “We have allocated quite a bit of the fund balance to keep programs intact.”

The district’s 3.49 percent tax levy increase proposal falls under the state’s “2 percent” cap formula, which would allow Cleveland Hill to propose a 4.76 percent increase that requires a simple majority vote. The superintendent said he was pleased that members of the community have talked to him about what they are willing to support.

“A school’s budget reflects the values of the community,” MacSwan said.

The district will host a budget presentation and hearing May 8.