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School issues flood Nov. 8 ballot

By admin Published: August 12, 2011

Akron and eight other Summit County school districts will ask voters to open their wallets in the Nov. 8 election.


School levies were among 145 issues and candidate races that cleared the county board of elections filing deadline this week.


Those races and issues will join three statewide issues on the fall ballot: a constitutional amendment that would increase the age of judges to run for election from 70 to 75; a referendum on Senate Bill 5, which limits union rights of public employees; and an amendment to exempt the state from federal requirements compelling residents to purchase health insurance.


The coming months will be an unusually active political season as forces on all sides of those issues vie for public support, said John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.


Because of the state issues on Senate Bill 5 and health care, “Voter turnout will be much higher than normal for the local issues,” he said. “We could have turnout at the level of the gubernatorial level.”


In Summit County, that will include mayoral elections in 10 communities, police and fire levies, liquor options, a levy for the Summit County Board of Developmental Disabilities and more.


In areas with large numbers of union or minority voters, the strong interest in state issues could tilt money issues to the favorable column. But areas with large numbers of conservative voters could see the opposite for their levies.


“This presents a much more complicated environment than you would normally see for tax issues,” Green said. “School levies will be operating in a much different environment.”


Passage of school issues already is a challenge.


In August elections statewide, just a quarter of the school issues — almost all of them new — passed in one of the worst drubbings in recent years, the Ohio School Board Association said.


“It’s a difficult sell,” said David Asbury, the association’s director of legislative services. “Having S.B. 5 on the ballot will add to the arguments on both sides. It’ll be a tough time for school issues.”


In Summit County, Barberton will ask voters for the largest money issue in terms of millage: an 8.74-mill emergency levy. In contrast with many other districts, however, Barberton’s issue would only last for five years if approved.


Many other districts are seeking approval of continuing levies, which means they would be on the tax duplicate permanently if approved. Other districts have issues that would last 10 years, so that they don’t have to return to the polls anytime soon if they get approval.


Many are starting their campaigns a year early. If the issue passes, they won’t collect it until 2012. But if it’s rejected, they will have time to return to the ballot.


Districts with issues on the ballot include: Aurora, 7.33 mills, for five years, beginning in 2012; Copley-Fairlawn, 2 mills, continuing; Nordonia Hills, 6 mills, continuing; Norton, 3 mills for five years, beginning in 2012; Stow-Munroe Falls, 6.57 mills for 10 years; Woodridge, 5.88 for 10 years; and the Maplewood Career Center, 3 mills for 10 years, beginning in 2012.


In Akron, voters will face a 5.5-mill permanent levy for operations. The issue would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $15 a month and would generate about $15 million a year.


The levy income would patch an expected deficit of $11 million in 2013, Superintendent David James said in an email.


District officials expect to have $277 million in revenue and carry over $22 million from 2012, but would need the levy income to meet its expenses of $310 million.


James said the district already has cut $6.6 million in 2009-10 and $7 million in 2010-11 and reduced costs in transportation and health care.


The ballot is not completely jelled yet. Aug. 25 is the filing deadline for Hudson, including the mayor’s race. Sept. 12, the day before the Sept. 13 primary, is the filing deadline for judges.


Carol Biliczky can be reached at cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3729.

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