Wellsville schools’ improvement levy would aid students

WELLSVILLE – Superintendent Richard Bereschik is asking residents of Wellsville to think of things like the safety and academic preparedness of their children before casting their votes on May 6.

According to Bereschik, those issues are amongst several covered by funds from a 2.5 mill permanent improvement levy for Wellsville Local Schools that will appear on the ballot election day. According to the Columbiana County Board of Elections, the levy would generate $15,900 annually over its five-year lifespan.

“That’s what we’d like to stress, that we’re going to use this for safety benefits and for technology,” Bereschik said.

Safety equipment purchased through permanent improvement funds for village schools have included cameras, monitors and automatically-locking security doors. In the past, it has also gone to buy school buses, though Bereschik states that Wellsville’s current fleet should be sufficient for the next five years.

On the technology end, he says the infrastructure found within the school buildings will need to be maintained, and possibly updated, due to the upcoming PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers ) assessment tests.

Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, PARCC assessments will replace the OAA (Ohio Achievement Assessments) and OGT (Ohio Graduation Tests) currently taken by students throughout the state.

Unlike those old standbys, PARCC exams are paperless, and Bereschik says investments in tech foundations may be necessary. “Everything’s going to have to be done through use of the computers,” he said. “We do testing on computers here to try to emulate that test, but the question is: Is our infrastructure ready for it?”

Permanent improvement money, as the name suggests, can only be used for durable items that school districts will use for many years. That would include heating system equipment, which was on the minds of students and school employees when problems arose with boilers in two school buildings this past winter. Bereschik took a moment to thank Wellsville Local’s buildings and grounds supervisor of Joe Traina and employee Ed Swogger with keeping the schools warm despite these issues.

The superintendent was equally explicit about what funds from this levy cannot go towards, including salaries and benefits for teachers, administrators or other school employees.

Bereschik emphasized that this is a renewal levy, with no new money being requested of taxpayers. It is, he says, just a continuation of what has been approved by village voters for many years.

Another advantage of this being a renewal levy is that it still qualifies for taxpayer relief under the homestead exemption. This means homeowners aged 65 and older receive a 12.5 percent rollback of what they owe.

Under budgetary changes signed into law by Governor John Kasich last year, homestead exemptions were eliminated on all new levies, but not for existing levies. “That’s one reason you keep renewals,” said district Treasurer Eva Elliott.

Bereschik says he understands that people have been faced with difficult times economically and plans to personally call each household in the district to explain the levy, how it works and why it’s needed. “I’ll be more than willing to answer any questions,” he said.