Mahoning voters reward agencies, schools at polls

Christmas came seven weeks early this year for many local governments, school districts and public-service agencies in Mahoning County.

In an extremely rare occurrence, every single tax issue on Mahoning County ballots in Tuesday’s election won voter approval. As a result, funding for critical operations and services has been stabilized, at least for the short term.

The 20 issues ranged from a higher-costing replacement levy for the county’s Children Services agency, a permanent extension of a county sales tax for the Western Reserve Transit Authority, plus renewal or additional tax levies to support school operations and local-government services.

In the vast majority of those cases, the margin of victory was fairly substantial, indicating that voters have invested trust in the responsible handling of their tax dollars to provide efficient delivery of services.

In endorsing the two countywide issues last month, we recognized as much.

In the case of the Children Services replacement levy to pull in $700,000 of additional revenue annually, we and many voters recognized the need for that agency’s services has skyrocketed in recent years, due in large part to the devastating toll the opiate epidemic has taken on the lives of families.

Mahoning CSB, for example, has seen a 70 percent increase in the number of children placed in its custody over last year’s levels. With no end in sight to the heroin crisis, there’s also no end in sight to vastly increased demands for CSB.

In the case of the mass-transit levy, projections of greater public need for the services WRTA provides likely played a role in the 60 percent passage margin of its request to permanently continue the small 0.25-percent sales tax.

As the county’s senior-citizen population continues to expand, so, too, will the pool of riders who will come to rely on WRTA’s transportation services.

Finally, in the case of the passage of school levies in all six districts seeking them, voters likely recognized that boards of education could not be expected to maintain quality educational environments and 21st-century programs if their budget faced significant shrinkage in operational revenue.

Voters also likely recognized that many school leaders have gotten the message that the electorate increasingly demands tight fiscal ships. That was evident this year in the relative paucity of school levies (not one additional school issue was sought in the county) on the ballot.

Those same leaders, in return for voter support Tuesday, must now double down to ensure the dollars awarded them are wisely spent. To be sure, we and many voters will be watching to ensure transparency in operations and accountability to taxpayers remain their primary priorities.

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