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Cleveland school board votes to move forward with levy on November ballot

Cleveland Metropolitan School District headquarters in Downtown Cleveland.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Cleveland Metropolitan School District headquarters in downtown Cleveland. The board of education voted Tuesday to place a levy on the ballot this November.

Cleveland voters will see an operating levy for Cleveland Metropolitan School District on the ballot November of 2024 with the board of education voting Tuesday evening in favor of moving forward with a combined levy and bond issue.

Officials during the board meeting said the levy is needed due to the school district facing a significant budget deficit in the near future, forecasting the district will be almost out of cash by the end of the 2025-2026 school year. The board will still need to vote in June to officially put the levy on the ballot.

CMSD has already moved to make tens of millions of dollars in cuts this year, including, most recently, cuts of 23 central office employees, on top of cuts to summer programming and an end to pandemic-relief-funded after-school programs. CMSD CEO Warren Morgan said the district will put an 8.6-mill levy and bond issue on the ballot; the bond issue is a renewal of a previous bond issue to fund building improvements that is expiring this year. The bond issue and levy will be a single issue on the ballot.

“Our scholars deserve every opportunity to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving world," Morgan said in a release Tuesday evening. "This levy will enable us to maintain and enhance essential programs that our scholars rely on, including advancements in STEM, arts, and college and career readiness, as well as crucial mental health and safety initiatives.”

Voters last approved new operating funds for the district in November 2020, when the district placed a renewal of a previous levy on the ballot on top of a 5-mill increase.

The 8.6-mill levy, if approved this November, would mean a property owner with a home valued at $100,000 would pay an additional $304.50 per year in property taxes.

Morgan said during Tuesday's meeting that the district also is currently studying its physical footprint as well as how much it's spending on operations.

"If we continue to operate at the same rates, we're going to continue to be in the financial situation we're in," he said. "And we need to look at how many buildings we have, how are we operating, what programs do we have, what staff do we have on board?"

The district is among hundreds of school districts across the country facing financial challenges after the end of pandemic relief funds. The Akron Board of Education is also seeking to place a levy on the ballot in November.

Board Chair Sara Elaqad said in the release that voter support for the levy will be crucial for children's future in Cleveland.

"We stand at a crossroads for funding the future of our children’s education," she said. "Your support for this levy means a direct investment in not just their future, but the future of Cleveland. We've strategically contained costs to minimize the impact on our residents, making this a responsible and crucial step forward for CMSD.”

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.