SPECIAL ELECTION School tax issues get second chance



Five school issues are on the August ballot.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
Three Mahoning Valley school districts that failed to get tax issues approved by voters earlier this month will give it another shot in August.
The Lakeview, Jackson-Milton and East Liverpool school districts, which all had tax issues defeated in the May 3 primary, will have the same proposals on the Aug. 2 special election ballot.
Also, the Girard school district is asking voters for $11.6 million for its local share of constructing a new junior-senior high school, and the Sebring school district is seeking approval on a 0.75 percent income tax.
Costs paid by district
The five districts filed the required paperwork with their county board of elections by Friday's deadline to be on the Aug. 2 special election ballot.
The cost of the special election is paid by the school districts. It costs about $600 a precinct in Mahoning and Trumbull county, and about $500 a precinct in Columbiana County.
It will cost about $3,000 for Sebring's tax initiative, about $3,600 for the Jackson-Milton bond issue, and about $10,000 each for the Lakeview, Girard and East Liverpool school districts.
Statewide, voter turnout for special elections are typically significantly less when compared to primary and general elections, said James Lee, a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State's Office.
Target neighborhoods
"Often times, school boards take advantage of low turnout in special elections by specifically targeting neighborhoods where they will be received favorably knowing not as many people will vote," he said.
That's not the case in Girard, said Joseph Jeswald, its schools superintendent.
The district waited until it could hold public forums on the school bond issue, and would have been rushing things if it placed the matter on the May primary, he said.
Three-part issue
The Girard school issue has three parts:
UA bond issue to raise $5.44 million to build a new junior-senior high school for pupils in grades 7 to 12, and to demolish the current school on North Ward Avenue. The state is paying more than $21 million for the project through the Ohio School Facilities Commission.
UThe second part is a 2-mill bond issue to raise $4.56 million to purchase the 117-acre Mahoning Country Club on East Liberty Street and Churchill Road. The state doesn't give schools money to purchase property. It will take a year before construction could begin, and if all goes according to plan, the building would open in the fall of 2008, Jeswald said.
UA 0.5-mill additional levy to raise $1.6 million to maintain the school; an OSFC requirement.
The other new tax issue on the Aug. 2 ballot is a 0.75 percent income tax to raise $390,000 annually for five years for the Sebring school district.
Something new
Superintendent Howard Friend says he knows school income tax ballot issues have a poor track record in Ohio. But three attempts at traditional additional millage levies in the past two years have failed, he said, so the district is trying something new.
The state put Sebring schools on fiscal watch in February 2004. If the income tax issue fails, the district will be about $150,000 in deficit at the end of 2006-07 and probably be placed in state fiscal emergency, Friend said.
State fiscal emergency is where the East Liverpool school district finds itself.
The district is putting a 12.4-mill, 5-year additional levy on the Aug. 2 ballot to raise $2,024,000 annually for five years.
The same levy received 40.5 percent of the vote in the May 3 primary.
Not taking chances
A 6.8-mill levy that raised $1,058,000 annually for the district will expire Dec. 31.
Even if the new levy passes, the district is projecting only a $200,000 surplus by June 2009, said Daniel Telzrow, its treasurer.
The Lakeview school district's 3.5-mill additional levy failed by two votes in the May primary. A recount is set for Tuesday.
But the district isn't taking any chances. It put the same levy on the Aug. 2 ballot. If the recount shows the issue passed May 3, the levy will be removed from the August ballot.
The district takes in most of Cortland, and parts of Bazetta, Mecca and Warren townships, and a bit of the city of Warren.
The Jackson-Milton school district is placing a 5.4-mill bond issue to raise $12.43 million for new schools and improvements on the August ballot. The same issue received 48.5 percent of the vote in the May 3 election.
skolnick@vindy.com

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