Again this fall, voters in 10 school districts in the Mahoning Valley face urgent pleas for help. Those pleas take the form of bond issues and additional, renewal or income-tax levies to support school operations in rural, suburban and urban districts.
And once again this fall, The Vindicator encourages voters facing renewal levies to heed the pleas and vote yes, which will result in no new taxes for residents but financial and academic stability for cash-strapped districts. The vast majority of this fall’s school issues in the Valley – nine of 14 – seek no increased revenues from taxpayers.
While we can understand that the lingering effects of the Great Recession continue to give budgetary pause to many Mahoning Valley taxpayers, maintaining at least a status-quo investment in public schools demonstrates a commitment to the next generation and represents a solid investment in shoring up real-estate values throughout our community.
This fall, on the heels of news that some local districts will get a slight bump in state funding for the first time in years in 2016 and 2017, voters still should not be dissuaded from continuing their support. After all, no district will profit from a windfall boost to make up for years of state-aid retrenchment; others are staying flat while some actually are witnessing the decline in state aid continue.
In Austintown, the largest district in the Valley that has two renewals on the Nov. 3 ballot, state assistance will remain essentially unchanged for the next two fiscal years. “We’re breaking even,” said Superintendent Vince Colaluca. “Breaking even is putting us behind with inflation and everything else,” he rightfully laments.
YOUNGSTOWN SCHOOLS LEVY
In Youngstown City Schools, state aid will increase ever so slightly in 2016, but that increase does not offset the need for strong local support. We also urge voters in that troubled urban district to resist any temptation to oppose the district’s renewal levy as a protest vote against the Youngstown Plan, the state strategy to rescue the ailing system. Rejection of the levy to provide $21.2 million to the district over the next four years would only hurt the school system and its students. Regardless of who is in the driver’s seat for the district, it must still rely largely upon local taxpayer support for survival.
Additionally, every school tax issue is placed on the ballot by elected members of a community’s school board. Voters elect people to their boards of education expecting them to protect everyone’s best interest. They invest considerable time and energy in doing their jobs, and none of them returns lightly to the electorate with a request for passage of a tax levy. The dwindling percentage of additional tax levies on the ballot this fall illustrates a general unwillingness to reach deeper and deeper into the wallets of residents.
Here is an alphabetical listing of school district renewal levies on the Nov. 3 ballot in our region. We endorse each of them.
AUSTINTOWN SCHOOLS: A 4.9-mill, 5-year renewal levy for current expenses to raise $1,763,768 annually.
AUSTINTOWN SCHOOLS: A 7.3-mill, 5-year renewal levy for current expenses to raise $3,157,237 annually.
BOARDMAN SCHOOLS: A 5.9-mill, 5-year renewal levy for current services to raise $3,910,226 annually.
BOARDMAN SCHOOLS: A 6-mill, 5-year renewal levy for current expenses to raise $3,278,582 annually.
CANFIELD SCHOOLS: A 1.6-mill, 5-year renewal levy for emergency requirements to raise $890,000 annually.
SALEM SCHOOLS: A 4.3-mill, 10-year renewal levy for emergency requirements to raise $1,225,300 annually.
STRUTHERS SCHOOLS: A 6.9-mill, 5-year renewal levy for operating expenses to raise $956,000 annually.
YOUNGSTOWN SCHOOLS : A 10.7-mill, 4-year renewal levy for emergency requirements to raise $5,291,510 annually.
Meanwhile, voters in three other school districts in the Valley seek additional local support through bond issues and additional property tax levies. These include a 4.4-mill, 37-year bond issue and a 0.5-mill additional levy in Champion, a 6-mill, five-year additional levy in Newton Falls and a 4-mill 34-year bond issue and a 0.5-mill additional tax levy in Poland. In Sebring, voters will be asked to renew the district’s income tax. The Vindicator typically does not issue recommendations on income-tax levies.
We urge residents of those districts to educate themselves thoroughly on those issues and then make informed decisions when casting their ballots.