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27 school districts plan levies Nov. 2

By John Published: August 5, 2010

By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer

Some of Summit County's wealthiest school districts will be asking voters for new money in November, including Hudson trying again to pass a 5.9-mill levy that failed in May.

Hudson, Green, Nordonia Hills, Revere and Mogadore all considered by the state to be either ''high income'' or ''very high income, very low poverty'' are among the districts that filed tax issues by Wednesday's deadline for the Nov. 2 ballot.

Springfield, Stow-Munroe Falls and Twinsburg will try to renew levies that won't raise taxes.

Twenty-seven districts in the Akron-Canton area will be on the ballot. Voters also will decide dozens of other issues, including local liquor options, charter amendments and taxes
for police and fire services, roads and libraries.

The Hudson school district is seeking a continuing levy that would cost the owner of a $100,000 home, who currently pays $1,372 annually for school-related taxes, an additional $181.

That's about a 13 percent hike, which is more modest than the 23 percent increase that voters in the Copley-Fairlawn district approved in Tuesday's special election.

The Ohio School Boards Association reported Wednesday that 10 of 27 school issues statewide passed, or about 37 percent. The average passage rate for August special issues since 1984 has been 31 percent, according to the association. Wooster also narrowly passed its issue Tuesday, but five other area districts did not.

Like Copley-Fairlawn, Hudson is considered by the state to be a ''very high income, very low poverty'' district.

In normal times, sure, but not in this economy, said Sheryl Sheatzley, Hudson communications manager.

''Hudson actually has been hit pretty hard, though, with people losing their jobs and taking significant cuts,'' Sheatzley said. ''It's pretty amazing because nothing changes when you look at Hudson. It still looks the same.''

The schools conducted a phone survey of registered voters throughout the district and an online survey with parents last month to get a better picture of voters' concerns.

In May, Hudson tried to persuade the community that the district which has the state's highest rating of ''excellent with distinction'' was worth the money.

The survey revealed that quality wasn't the reason voters turned the levy down.

''It's really economy driven,'' Sheatzley said. ''It really came back: 'We know you're good, but these are tough times and they're tough times for everybody.' ''

Voters want to know what Hudson is doing to reduce personnel costs, particularly wages and benefits, she said.

Hudson last passed a levy for new money in 2006 and the district hopes to stretch a new levy another four years. The district has cut $6 million from the budget since 2006.

The district trimmed another $1.8 million, almost all in personnel costs, last year and plans another $300,000 in personnel cuts whether or not the levy passes.

''We're looking at everything, we really are, in order to stretch the levy,'' Sheatzley said.

Administrators took a pay freeze starting Aug. 1 and are now contributing 10 percent to health-care costs. The teachers' union contract expires in a year.

''The last contract was probably the lowest they had done in a decade, which was still a raise [1.5 percent],'' Sheatzley said. ''But we are talking to our leadership about what we think we need to do to stretch this levy for four years.''


John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or jhiggins@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.
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