Schools Keep Eye on Ormet

As an already struggling school district that has lost 1,200 students over the past 23 years, the last thing Switzerland of Ohio Local needs is to see Ormet Corp. cease operations at Hannibal.

According to Treasurer Lance Erlwein, the district that operates River, Monroe Central and Beallsville high schools needs residents to pass a 7.72-mill levy to generate $3 million per year in order to keep all of its buildings open.

“Without the levy, we’ll have to consider closing brand new buildings,” Erlwein said.

An $88 million district-wide construction project has been under way since voters in 2009 approved a $35 million levy. The Ohio School Facilities Commission contributed $53 million toward the construction and renovation work. A new Beallsville elementary/high school, a new Monroe Central High School and a new Woodsfield Elementary already have been completed. A new Powhatan Point Elementary School is under construction, and a new Skyvue Elementary also will be built. River High School is being renovated, and ground was broken in May for a new Hannibal/Sardis elementary school adjacent to River High.

Erlwein said an operating levy failed by 200 votes in May, so officials decided to again place before voters in November. If approved, the new tax levy would be applied for five years.

After the levy failed in the spring, the district decided to cut insurance, cut some teaching positions and implement a “pay-to-play” system for high school football and other sports.

“We have cut all our programs to the state minimum,” Erlwein said. “The only alternatives for us now are to pass a levy or to start closing buildings.”

At 546 square miles, the Switzerland of Ohio district is the largest in terms of area in the state of Ohio. However, the vast majority of this area is rural, which means the district pays large transportation costs.

“In 1990, we had 3,500 students. In 2000, we had 2,800. Now, we are down to 2,300,” said Erlwein. “We have lost a lot of students to open enrollment.”

As Ormet’s future remains uncertain, Erlwein said the school district would lose about $109,000 per year in property taxes if the company completely shut down and liquidated.

“The biggest effect that we would feel would be from the families. We get $5,735 from the state for every child enrolled in our district. If people move, we will lose funding,” he said.

Wednesday was also the last day on the job for Larry Elliott as the district superintendent.

“The Switzerland of Ohio Local School Board and Larry Elliott executed a separation agreement at the regular board meeting on July 25, 2013, ending Mr. Elliott’s employment as superintendent of the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District effective July 31, 2013,” said Erlwein.

The next school board meeting will be held Aug. 15.