With the passage of an 8.45-mill levy Tuesday, Barberton schools enjoyed a favorable outcome at the polls.
Leading up to the May 7 ballot, Barberton Schools Superintendent Patti Cleary had considered her options.
She knew state funding, which supports 70 percent of Barberton Schools’ budget, would continue to decline. She had written several grants in the past few weeks to private foundations and the Ohio Department of Education for help. And she had identified program cuts and layoffs that would follow a fourth straight failed attempt to pass an 8.45-mill emergency levy, which would have secured $3 million annually.
“I know we’re going to have to make some hard choices … even if this levy passes,” Cleary had said.
Those choices may not be so hard now that the levy passed.
Seven school districts did not fare so well, but six others joined Barberton in celebrating.
A first-time excellent-rated district, Mogadore Schools’ academic success hinges on the ability to provide meaningful instruction and up-to-date training for teachers, Superintendent Christina Dinklocker said. But the state legislature took away $1.4 million in state funding, about 15 percent of all state aid, when the tangible personal property tax for school districts was discontinued.
After administrators, faculty and staff took pay freezes two years ago, Dinklocker decided to be proactive and ask voters to support a 5.9-mill levy on Tuesday. It failed.
“That curtails materials. That curtails teacher training,” she said. “The children are as good as we are.”
Mogadore, like 13 of the 15 Akron-Canton area school districts on the ballot Tuesday, asked for additional money. Even though additional levy requests are on the rise, Tuesday’s ballot results indicate a statewide trend: new money is hard to get.
Nearly two in three school levy issues statewide requested new money last year, according to the Ohio School Board Association. That’s twice the rate at which schools were asking voters for additional money a decade ago. In the Akron-Canton area, 13 schools asked for a combined $25.6 million annually in new property taxes.
But additional levies typically have a lower chance of passing. About 67 percent failed statewide in the past five years while voters passed nearly 90 percent of renewals, or levies that sustain current tax rates. Two local renewals for Hillsdale and Manchester schools passed. But several of the requests for new money failed.
“The new money certainly is a factor,” said Cuyahoga Falls Superintendent Todd Nichols following a levy failure Tuesday night. “It was a relatively small amount, but any time you are asking new money it is difficult.”
The 3-mill, five-year bond issue would have supported safety and security upgrades for older buildings with multiple entrances. The measure would have also allowed the district to replace buses in its aging fleet.
“It’s disappointing. It’s just disappointing,” he said.
Nichols said he and the school board would not make the filing deadline today at 4 p.m. for the August election, but they would consider revisiting the polls in the fall.
Also failing at the polls Tuesday was a 7.9-mill additional emergency levy for Cloverleaf schools, one of only four districts in Ohio in fiscal emergency.
“Well, obviously I’m disappointed in the result,” said Superintendent Daryl Kubilus Jr. with Cloverleaf schools. “With the significant budget deficit we face in coming years, this need for additional revenue is not going away.”
Now begins the campaign for Cloverleaf schools’ August levy campaign.
Kubilus said that as the state does “what’s best for the budget and not what’s best for education,” he will now be asking voters to support the same failed additional levy and a renewal in three months.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com.