By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer
Copley-Fairlawn voters agreed to a 23-percent tax hike Tuesday to help the school district avoid a $3 million deficit, preserve high school busing and prevent pay-to-play fees for sports.
The 6.9-mill levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home, who now pays about $913 a year in school-related taxes, an additional $211 a year.
The issue passed decisively, 2,132 to 1,729, according to unofficial Board of Elections results.
''In this economy, a 55-percent passage rate, we feel, is a very strong show of support for our school system,'' said the district's new superintendent, Brian Poe. ''We're going to try to stretch these dollars over a five-year period.''
Copley-Fairlawn and Wooster were the only area districts among seven on the ballot to win voter approval in Tuesday's special election.
Norton failed in its third and final attempt to pass a bond issue that would leverage state money for school construction.
Rootstown in Portage County, Highland and Buckeye in Medina County and Southeast in Wayne County all failed. Those districts also failed to pass issues in the May primary.
Akron-Canton area schools had an unusually high number of money requests on the ballot. More than a quarter of the total 27 issues statewide were decided in Summit, Portage, Medina Wayne and Portage counties.
Only 21 of Ohio's 88 counties had school issues before the voters Tuesday.
Wooster voters narrowly approved a 6.5-mill additional permanent operating levy that will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $199 a year.
Voters last approved a new tax for Copley-Fairlawn's day-to-day operations in 2002: a 5.9-mill levy that raises $4.1 million a year.
The state considers the Copley-Fairlawn district a ''very high income/very low poverty'' district, which means that local taxpayers are on the hook for almost all of the district's annual budget of about $30 million.
The state contributes only about $1.1 million a year after transfers for charter school and other deductions.
Norton votes no
This was Norton's last chance to grab state money for a school construction project.
Norton failed to pass a $27.5 million, 37-year bond issue for construction of a new high school southeast of the intersection of Greenwich and Medina Line roads, as well as demolition of two aged elementary schools, and other projects.
The bond issue would have generated 62 percent of the cost to build the new high school, with the state picking up the remainder of the bill. The bond issue also would have paid the entire cost of a new stadium and related projects.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission sets aside money for an approved school construction project and gives districts a year to come up with their local share of the cost.
After that, the state funds are no longer encumbered and the district must raise its local share first and then hope to be included in the next round of funding.
Superintendent Dave Dunn said the district would have to wait at least a year before attempting that, and there would be no guarantee the state money would be available.
''We will not be back on [the ballot] for facilities in the immediate future,'' Dunn said. ''There are some people who have speculated for instance that we will be on in November and we absolutely will not be.''
Highland issue fails
Highland also won't be on the November ballot, but voters should expect to see an issue in next May's primary that will cost more than the 5.9 mill levy they rejected on Tuesday.
''The millage will need to be higher,'' said Superintendent Catherine Aukerman. ''We cannot continue to operate the district without additional revenue.''
Two other issues passed. Voters who live in the Orrville school district passed a 0.95-mill levy for the Orrville Public Library, and Harrisville Township voters in Medina County renewed a roads levy.