WRTA renewal levy wins approval
By Ashley Luthern
Overall, Mahoning Valley voters were supportive of local schools, approving new levies in Boardman and Poland, in addition to a renewal in Youngstown.
In Boardman, 53 percent of voters approved a 3.9-mill, three-year additional emergency operating levy that will generate $3,178,231 annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $119.44 each year.
“For our students, this means continuity. It means the assurance that their lives will not be negatively impacted and we can maintain the high-quality education we’ve been providing,” said Superintendent Frank Lazzeri.
Lazzeri said levy approval doesn’t mean programs will be added, but he stressed that it will allow the district to keep what it has.
“I think we’ve proven good stewards of taxpayer money,” Lazzeri said.
Still, he cautioned that the district doesn’t know what changes will come from the state.
“Even with the passage of this levy, we are not guaranteeing there won’t be cuts in the future,” Lazzeri said.
In the past 10 years, the district lost $15.4 million as a result of state-level legislation, such as cuts in the State Foundation Program.
“[The levy passage] is such a wonderful compliment to the community. They understood our message. ... We couldn’t have done it without help from people in the levy committee, parents and teachers. They made this a community issue,” said school board member Nik Amstutz.
The last time Boardman schools received voter approval for a new levy was in 2003 — which until Tuesday was the last time Poland had garnered enough votes to pass a new levy.
Fifty-five percent of voters in the Poland school district approved a 5.9-mill, five-year additional emergency operating levy that will generate $2,181,867 annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $180.68 annually. This was the district’s fourth new levy attempt in two years.
In the last five years, the district has lost $5.5 million in state revenue and had been projecting a deficit at the end of the 2013-14 school year.
“I commend the citizens for recognizing the importance that this levy has for the community and the children of the community,” said interim Superintendent Don Dailey.
He also lauded the levy committee. Co-chairwoman Julie Liddle said the committee had more than 80 members.
“Many of the people in the committee didn’t have kids in school at this time and I really think that made the difference,” she said.
School board president Dr. Larry Dinopoulos said the levy passage means the district will no longer consider open enrollment.
“We’ll still look at tightening our belts a bit, but we can breathe a small sigh of relief,” he said.
In Youngstown, 60 percent of voters approved a 10.4-mill city school district renewal levy that generates about $5.3 million annually. The four-year measure originally was approved in 2008 and was set to expire at the end of this year.
The owner of a $100,000 home will continue to pay $318.50 annually, including the homestead exemption and 2.5 percent rollback.
“I just want to say thanks to the taxpayers for believing in what we’re doing and giving their support,” Superintendent Connie Hathorn said. “We’re trying very hard to move district forward.”
Hathorn said the district will continue to manage money carefully.
Two districts saw defeat at the polls.
In Springfield, about 55 percent of voters turned down a 2.5-mill bond issue that would have generated part of the funds for a $12.3 million new kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school.
Of the total cost, 52 percent, or $6.4 million, would be borrowed by the local district through the bond issue, and the remaining 48 percent, or $5.9 million, would be paid by the state through the Ohio School Facilities Commission’s Exceptional Needs Program.
The bond issue would have cost $76.26 annually for the owner of a $100,000 home. The defeat mirrors the results in 2008, when Springfield voters thrice rejected a 7.1-mill combination bond issue/tax levy for new schools throughout the district.
Superintendent Debra Mettee said she was in contact with school- board members Tuesday night and said the board wants to have more community meetings for input about the bond issue.
“We’ll see what the reaction is of the supporters of the bond issue and see if they’re angry or upset,” Mettee said. “I think now we’ll sit back and see what the reaction is and what message [voters] sent to the board.”
The state has set a July deadline for Springfield to secure local funding.
In Jackson-Milton, 67 percent of voters rejected a 2.9-mill, 5-year additional levy to avoid an operating deficit to raise $549,000 annually. A 4.9-mill, 5-year renewal levy to avoid an operating deficit to raise $988,485 annually also was defeated.