COVENTRY TWP.: Parents who attended a levy support rally at Coventry High School joined the majority of township voters who approved a 5.99-mill bond issue and permanent improvement levy for the schools on Tuesday.
In its third and final attempt, the levy will raise $28.3 million over 34 years to build a new high school and repair existing facilities.
But most of the parents had their own reasons for voting for the measure.
Denise Walters, a Coventry resident, wants her two daughters to ride the bus and her son to play basketball in middle school. Both options would have been cut or reduced.
Stronger schools keep property values up, said Nathan Multer, who attended the rally with his wife and two daughters.
“I want them to have a great school district,” he said.
And Tina Shaw didn’t say a word. She just pointed to her daughter, a rambunctious 6-year-old girl in a karate outfit who can now enjoy the electives her older sisters have.
Those electives were part of the $600,000 in additional cuts Superintendent Russell Chaboudy said he is glad the district does not have to make.
“I think that we got the message out there, and this time around there were some significant cuts attached to it,” Chaboudy said. “My belief is that this issue is really going to skyrocket this whole community.”
“Our parents really stepped up this time,” he said.
The levy passed by 413 votes, about the same margin that the levy failed by in February.
Passage of the bond issue also avoids a November operating levy of nearly 10 mills, school administrators said.
The high school will now be converted into a K-5 building with the $28.3 million raised by the 34-year bond issue. An attached permanent improvement measure would curtail the hemorrhaging of hundreds of thousands of dollars in piecemeal repairs on the aging middle and elementary schools, administrators have said.
Not a smooth campaign
In its third attempt, levy opponents flooded local media outlets with opinion letters listing complaints that ranged from over-taxation to open enrollment — a policy that allows Coventry to admit more than 800 students from nearby districts.
Opponents argued that Coventry schools, after shrinking from seven to four buildings, should continue to consolidate and close the doors to open enrollment, which bolsters 33 percent of the district’s students and about 60 percent of total state aid.
But that policy, which some say burdens the school district’s budget, has buoyed state aid that has fallen over the past decade. According to state-reported school financial reports, Coventry schools received $570 less state funding per pupil last year than it received in 1998. And where open enrollment has fallen short of filling the funding gap, local taxpayers have stepped in, paying $4,411 more per pupil in that time.
With only five Ohio school districts receiving less state funding per pupil, Coventry schools has repeatedly asked local voters for help since being placed on fiscal watch in 1997.
As one of six Ohio school districts in fiscal watch, the state currently inspects Coventry schools’ monthly finances. A levy failure would have invited a state takeover. But now Treasurer Aaron Butts said he can begin to file an application to be removed from fiscal watch after 15 years.
“That’s been my goal since I was hired here,” Butts said. “That was my No. 1 goal.”
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.