Before it can pursue a bond issue to build new facilities, the Northridge school district must stabilize its budget.

Before it can pursue a bond issue to build new facilities, the Northridge school district must stabilize its budget.

That's what levy campaigners and school officials say they hope voters understand when they head to the polls Nov. 4, where they will be asked to approve a 3.5-mill emergency operating levy.

"I think some people are finding it confusing," said Denise Shedloski, who chairs the levy committee. "Everyone's trying so hard to communicate, but it's very difficult in a district this size."

She hoped Monday's public forum, ads, targeted phone calls and a door-to-door push spearheaded by residents will help inform Northridge voters.

If passed, the levy would collect $750,000 a year for its five-year life. That's money Northridge treasurer Felicia Drummey said would partially go toward building a budget reserve that would allow the district to stop borrowing against future revenue to meet normal expenses, thereby improving its credit rating.

"When we secure taxpayers' support down to line to issue bonds to build, those bonds get rated according to risk," Drummey said, explaining the relationship between operating funds and facility projects. "If the risk is higher to investors, the district experiences a higher interest rate for the next 25 years. That adds up over time for the taxpayers themselves."

Superintendent John Shepard said the district could be seeking approval of a bond issue for a facility project in partnership with the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) within a year.

Beyond its credit-oriented relationship to the plan to put Northridge students in a new elementary building, as well as make improvements to the middle and high school buildings, the levy revenue is also slated for: hiring new teachers at the high school to meet unfunded state instructional mandates; making some repairs to properties; and updating curriculum and textbooks.

"I can't remember when curriculum and textbooks were last updated," Shepard said.

He estimated the last time Northridge had a cycle of replacing those materials was in 2004. The last textbook purchase, he said, was in 2002.

Tightening the budget simply isn't working any longer, Drummey said.

The levy committee's Web site, www.northridgeschooldistrictlevypage.com, features a comparison of major budget expenditures between 2002 and 2006, showing significant percentage decreases in most areas with the exception of food service and transportation.

Northridge cut $441,000 in 2007, but those savings were offset by a $622,000 rise in utility and fuel costs.

"These are hard times," Shedloski said. "But I have to think of this increase as McDonald's for my kids once a month. It's a matter of me not being able to afford not to pass the levy because fiscal emergency affects everyone and I don't want my property values to drop more."

The 3.5-mill request equates to $9 per month per $100,000 of a home's market value.

If the levy fails, school officials sai, more cuts would be necessary, this time affecting instructional programs, extracurriculars and busing.