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Defeat of roads levy in Liberty serves notice to school district

Published: Mon, November 18, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Liberty Township residents, by a vote of 1,255 to 983, turned down a request from government for a 1.25-mill, five-year levy that would have pumped $226,320 into the road resurfacing fund. Township officials had pointed out there are 20 to 25 roads that are in really bad shape, but taxpayers weren’t swayed. The arguments presented by township Administrator Patrick Ungaro and the trustees that the local money would generate state grants failed to win over a majority of the voters in the Nov. 5 general election.

Against that backdrop, members of the Liberty Local School District and the state-mandated fiscal commission overseeing the system’s finances have their work cut out for them if the decision is made to seek an operating levy of up to 5 mills.

Thirteen days before the general election, Paul Marshall, commission chairman, said the projected deficits in the five-year budget forecast left the board of education with two options: cut spending or raise revenue.

“You don’t want to wait until the last minute,” Marshall, who has worked with other financially challenged public entities in the Valley, told the school board. His message was to the point: “ … we need to do something now.”

Why the urgency? Because the five-year forecast, which is required as a result of the district being under state-mandated fiscal emergency since 2011, projects an $800,000 deficit in 2017 and $1.3 million in 2018.

Marshall acknowledged that selling a levy to the residents of the district would be an uphill battle, but he pointed out that given the challenges the school system is facing, it will be difficult to make substantial cuts in the operating budget.

The district has already cut staff and transportation and is sharing services with the Trumbull County Educational Services Center.

There is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak picture: The new three-year contract with the school district’s staff includes: a 10 percent contribution to health benefits; a move from self-insurance to coverage under a health-care consortium; and most important, no pay raises.

But, here’s the question: Will the willingness of the employees to make sacrifices persuade an otherwise cynical electorate (as evidenced by the November vote) to approve a 5-mill operating levy for the schools?

Leading role

We would suggest that the fiscal oversight commission will have to step forward and take a leading role in making the argument for the tax. The rejection of the roads levy earlier this month is not encouraging, but having a state-mandated panel that has been overseeing the district’s finances involved in the campaign may get through to the voters.

There is an argument to be made for the district needing more money to operate, but how that argument is presented — and by whom — could be the difference between a yes vote and a no vote.

If the school board and the fiscal commission are looking for a silver lining in the Nov. 5 voting, they may want to focus on the outcome of the trustees race.

Two incumbents, Stan Nudell and Jason Rubin, easily won re-election — despite their strong support for the roads department issue. Indeed, each of them got more votes than the vote total by which the levy was rejected.

What does that mean? It’s up to members of the commission and the board of education to find out. The answer could serve as the foundation for the levy campaign next year.


1eagleye(59 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

Agree with the above post by CompManRetired. As another retiree, I will NOT vote for any future levies. I moved to Liberty Twp. from Northern Virgina where my taxes were less than half what they are here, and I live in a comparable sized home. The taxes here are a major rip off and far out of line. They could start to save some money by firing Ungaro and making the Trustees get busy and actually do their jobs. Since the funding method for schools has been ruled to be unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court about 10 years ago, why are we even sending in our tax payments for schools. I don't feel very obligated to support a system that's unconstitutional and supported by my extorted tax dollars. I've found from experience that the way to force change is to starve government operations of money. It's the only way it works in Washington, and it works at the state and local levels. After working 40 years in the federal government, military, and private industry, I haven't seen any outfit that can't take an immediate 10% across the board chop to start with and then make large cuts as more waste, corruption, and cronyism is exposed and eliminated. I have NO sympathy regarding teachers paying only 10% of their insurance costs. I never paid less than 20% in private industry. I'm still waiting for Trumbull County to maintain the roads I usually drive on. Drive on Tibbetts-Wick from Logan to Warner Rd., or Warner Rd. north to Rt. 82. It's a piece of crap with cold patch stuck on top of cold patch. Until the past bad decisions by the Liberty School Board and Trustees are far in the rear view mirror and the budgets are really wrung out, I have absolutely no intention of voting for any future levies for anything, Liberty, Trumbull Country or any others. I've watched my property taxes go up by several thousands of dollars per year since I move here, with no visible increase in services for the past 10 years. Tibbetts Wick hasn't been paved in over 10 years. We pay the highest, or second highest, taxes in Trumbull Country, and some of the highest taxes in the nation other than New Jersey, NY, and California. Why would I be crazy enough to give any of these people more of my money? Let them hold bake sales.

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2repeaters(314 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

How many empty schools in the city of Y'town? What are the taxpayers (i mean homeowners) on the hook for money wise? People who vote for levies 'don't have a clue' on what they are supporting. But back to Liberty, 1) the highest taxes in the county, 2) next to Warren, the highest amount of foreclosures, 3) next to Warren, the highest drop of property values. In 2014, the Homestead deduction on property taxes will be based on income for you new 65 year olds ( not automatic anymore). Don't forget the unpaid property taxes Liberty can't collect; so who exactly is going to pay for this levy????

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