By Harold Gwin
Austintown’s bond issue and tax levy failed, with 56 percent of voters rejecting it.
YOUNGSTOWN — Absentee ballots cast in the Austintown schools’ bond issue and tax levy proved to be prophetic in Tuesday’s election.
Those casting the early ballots voted nearly 2-1 against the issue, and those who cast their ballots during Tuesday’s election followed suit, defeating the issue, albeit by a much narrower margin.
Unofficial tallies reported by the Mahoning County Board of Elections showed that 56 percent of the nearly 12,000 residents to vote on the issue opposed it.
Tax issues in the Canfield, Jackson-Milton and Western Reserve districts were approved.
The Austintown school district had asked voters to approve a 2.4-mill, 37-year bond issue to provide about $26 million in new revenue to provide Austintown’s share of a $50 million project to tear down five old schools and replace them with two new ones, creating a central campus in the process.
Woodside, Lynn Kirk, Lloyd, Watson and Frank Ohl schools would be razed and new schools built on the Ohl and Watson sites. The Ohio School Facilities Commission would pick up $24 million of the project cost.
The 0.5-mill additional tax levy was to provide funds for ongoing building maintenance.
“I think the bond issue was a real good idea,” said Richard R. Zimmermann, school board president.
Zimmermann lost his own re-election bid Tuesday as well — but vowed to continue to support the bond issue if and when the school board brings it back to the voters.
The rejection by voters leaves the district with time to get the issue on the ballot two more times before it loses access to the state funds. That means it could appear in the spring 2010 primary, or, if necessary, on the fall 2010 ballot.
In Canfield, school district voters supported a 1-mill replacement levy for a 1-mill, five-year levy they had passed five years ago.
The version approved Tuesday won’t have to be renewed. It is a continuous levy for permanent improvements designed to produce $560,000 a year in revenue.
Dante Zambrini, district superintendent, said he wasn’t surprised by the show of support as the levy passed with 57 percent of those casting ballots favoring it.
The Canfield community has always valued education and has always supported its schools and facilities, he said, noting the district does its best to live within its means.
Revenue collected from the 1-mill levy passed five years ago had deteriorated to the point that it was producing only 0.8 mills of revenue, Zambrini said.
Tuesday’s passage of the continuous levy restores the collection to the full 1-mill level, although it will also slowly deteriorate over the coming years, he said.
Voters in the Jackson-Milton schools also approved a 2.1-mill, 5-year renewal levy that will provide $383,000 in annual revenue, allowing the district to avoid an operating deficit.
Voters there favored the renewal by 53 percent.
In the Western Reserve, schools, voters approved a 4.6-mill, 10-year renewal levy that will produce $425,000 annually, money that is to be used for emergency purposes.
The margin of support victory there was 58 percent of the votes cast.