By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer
At least 30 volunteers worked the phones at Northwest Middle School in the closing hours of the primary election Tuesday evening, calling stragglers who hadn't voted yet.
Volunteers who were uncomfortable talking on the phone could talk to God instead during an all-day prayer vigil on the district's behalf.
Well, somebody got through, because after 10 straight election defeats, the financially troubled district finally persuaded voters to spend new money on the schools — a 1-percent earned income tax that was passing comfortably at midnight with about half the vote counted.
''This has been a community effort from beginning to end,'' Northwest superintendent Bill Stetler said. ''To anyone who had anything to do with this Herculean effort, I thank you.''
It was the first time the community had supported a new tax for operations since 1992.
''At this point, the greatest challenge facing all of us is to figure out to transition from a community divided by the levy wars that we've experienced during the last five years to working together as we continue to struggle with our national economy,'' Stetler said.
Northwest was one of 23 area districts seeking to either renew taxes or raise additional taxes for operations or school construction.
Voters in the Highland school district — still grieving the deaths of two students who died in a car accident — narrowly defeated a 5.9-mill levy.
The measure would have raised an additional $4 million a year, which is 15 percent of the district's operating budget.
''This has been yet another difficult week for Highland. First, the tragic loss of Erin and Andrew Ehrbar and now the disappointing failure of our school levy,'' said Superintendent Catherine Auckerman in a prepared statement.
The five-year, emergency levy would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $181 a year.
Cloverleaf schools in Medina County narrowly lost a renewal of a 2 mill permanent improvement levy that didn't raise taxes.
Voters in Medina's Buckeye district also rejected a plea for new money, turning down a 6.5-mill levy that would have added $199 to the property tax for a $100,000 home.
Revere school district voters soundly defeated a 6.86-mill new property tax for operations that would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $210 more a year.
Hudson rejected a 5.9-mill additional levy for operations.
Springfield passed its bond issue to build a new combined high school and middle school. The bond issue, along with a half-mill improvement levy, will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $149 a year. Coventry passed a 6.25-mill levy. Manchester and Woodridge both passed renewals of existing taxes.
Norton failed to pass its bond issue to build a new high school and stadium.
In Stark County, Marlington and Tuslaw, along with Northwest, were seeking new money for operations. Marlington was failing, and Tuslaw was passing.
In Portage County, Rootstown and Streetsboro sought new money for operations. Southeast and Aurora asked voters to renew existing property-tax levies. Rootstown and Streetsboro failed; Aurora and Southeast passed.
In Wayne County, Orrville, Southeast and Wooster tried to pass new property taxes; Green and Triway tried to pass bond levies for school construction; and Norwayne hoped to renew its levy.
Green, Norwayne and Orrville passed; Southeast, Triway and Wooster failed.
Northwest waged an unprecedented campaign with hundreds of volunteers and fundraising on the scale of a large urban district.
Volunteers watched returns from the Salt Box Ministry building, a soup kitchen operated by St. John Lutheran Church in Canal Fulton.
''We had an all-day prayer vigil at the Salt Box today,'' said school board member and campaign co-chairman Bruce Beadle. ''Those are the ways you get people involved.''