Niles superintendent worries cuts won’t satisfy debt after levy fails

NILES, Ohio (WYTV) – Niles voters left little doubt about spending more money on the schools when a levy was soundly defeated on Tuesday.

The Niles School Board met Wednesday evening to talk about personnel issues — not the levy’s defeat. But it was hanging over the room.

“Really disappointed because we care about the students of Niles City Schools,” Superintendent Ann Marie Thigpen said.

Seventy percent of Niles voters said “no” to a 9.25 mil levy.

On Wednesday, Thigpen met with officials from the Department of Education’s Office of School Finance.

“We had very difficult discussions today and we have to submit a plan by the end of November to the Office of Finance and they will approve it or not approve it,” Thigpen said.

The Niles School District has a history of financial problems. It was under a state-mandated fiscal watch from 2003 to 2016 and was just recently put back under fiscal caution.

“Potentially, it could be going back into fiscal watch or worse, going into fiscal emergency,” Thigpen said.

She said the district will make it through this school year but next year, there’s a $2 million deficit — exactly what the 9.25 mil levy would have generated.

The school board is likely to put the same levy on the May primary ballot but Thigpen doesn’t know if she can wait until May.

“We have to look at every department, every program that we have here in Niles and see what we can live without,” she said.

Thigpen said they’re making tough decisions and having tough discussions until then but she doesn’t think the schools can cut their way out of $2 million.