By Dan Sewell
CINCINNATI: Some 60 percent of Ohio school funding issues on this week’s local ballots were approved, although voters in the capital city soundly rejected a proposed tax hike.
The Ohio School Boards Association said Wednesday that unofficial results indicate 116 of 192 issues passed Tuesday. The issues include property tax hikes, income taxes, bond issues and other funding measures.
Nearly a third of Ohio’s public school districts had ballot issues Tuesday. While Gov. John Kasich increased state funding for schools in the latest budget, some school officials say that doesn’t offset earlier cuts in state and federal funds and declining tax revenues.
“While there are signs the economy is improving in Ohio, many school districts in the state continue to experience funding challenges,” Richard Lewis, executive director of the school boards association, said in a statement.
More than two-thirds of Columbus voters Tuesday were against the city schools levy. School officials said it was too early to decide whether they will go back before voters in the spring.
“We are going to take time to reflect and assess,” Dan Good, the interim superintendent, said in a statement Wednesday. “We want and need to understand why the voters made the decision they made.”
Mayor Michael Coleman had pushed for the levy, which came in the aftermath of a school data-rigging scandal.
“You can’t fool the people,” Jonathan Beard, a levy opponent, told The Columbus Dispatch. He said the strong vote against it shows the levy was “a bad idea to start with.”
A levy in another one of the state’s largest districts was winning narrowly in unofficial results, with the possibility of a recount ahead. The Lakota Schools issue had a 234-vote lead with nearly 27,000 votes cast, after voters had rejected three earlier levies.
Lakota officials said if the levy approval stands, the district will be able to restore some services such as busing for younger students while spending on technology, modernized coursework and school security.
“It gives us options to prepare our kids for their future, and we’re grateful to our community for that,” Superintendent Karen Mantia told WLWT-TV.
Neighboring Fairfield’s school bond issue was trailing by 58 votes, with more than 13,000 cast and a recount likely.
This year’s overall approval rate is higher than last November’s 55 percent, when 105 of 192 school issues passed. Of school issues on ballots for the first time, only 36 percent passed Tuesday. That’s a rate of rejection for first-time issues similar to the November 2012 election.