After polls closed on Tuesday’s special election, area school districts received mixed results: Waterloo officials rejoiced, while Coventry and Hillsdale school districts plan to make additional cuts and revisit the polls in the fall.
Coventry voters rejected a $28.3 million bond issue and 1.1-mill additional tax levy for the second time in less than six months.
Mailers and yard signs opposing the additional tax levy flowed through the community, which passed an operating levy in November. School officials don’t expect that operating money to keep the district solvent, however.
Tuesday’s levy, which would have afforded much-needed repairs and construction, was rejected by about 58 percent of voting residents.
“We are greatly disappointed in the outcome. We faced a lot of negative information that was not accurate nor reported fairly,” Superintendent Russell Chaboudy said following the results. “A number of people put out false information with no disclaimers or signatures, and that was difficult to contend with. The board will be meeting to discuss where we go from here. The facts remain our buildings are crumbling around our students.”
Meeting similar criticism in August, when 53 percent of voters rejected the ballot issue, Broadview Heights-based Northern Ohio Associated Builders and Contractors backed opposition to the bond measure. It funded the mailers and said the district would irresponsibly spend the money on a single-source contractor that would price gouge district coffers.
“We’d like [Coventry] to get the funds they need to get new buildings,” said Bryan Williams, a lobbyist for ABC and member of the Ohio state board of education. “But that does not supersede the need to do it right.”
The bond and corresponding improvement levy would have raised funds over the next 34 years. Those funds would be used to demolish Erwine Intermediate School and Turkeyfoot Elementary. The existing high school would have been converted into a K-5 building.
The district then would have constructed a new high school on the Erwine site and repaired leaky roofs, drafty windows and boilers at Coventry Middle School.
Tuesday’s vote also was the seventh attempt to pass an emergency operating levy for Waterloo schools in the past 26 months. After the levy failed in November 2010, the district reduced spending by $1 million while incurring a 10 percent state funding reduction in the governor’s last two-year budget. The measure failed again in May 2011, and another $1 million in cuts ensued.
“If something doesn’t change, eventually the state will be in here,” Hill said Tuesday, prior to polls closings.
Hours later, he commended his community for its support. It’s the first additional operating revenue approved since 1995.
“On behalf of the Waterloo Local School Community I want to thank you for your support and let you know how important and crucial today’s support is for our students and the opportunities they will receive in our district,” Superintendent Andy Hill said.
Waterloo administrators had consulted other districts that have been placed in fiscal emergency. Hill went as far as counting the number of teachers the district could lay off before falling below state minimum staffing levels.
Those cuts now are avoidable.
Hillsdale had less to be excited about Tuesday night.
After a similar ballot issue failed in November, officials again asked for a two-year, 7.9-mill levy that would raise almost $1.1 million. In addition, the district — straddling Wayne and Ashland counties — asked for a 1.25 percent tax on earned income to support the operating budget.
The district’s five-year forecast projects a deficit of more than $11.4 million by 2017.
“There’s been almost a moratorium on spending,” Superintendent Joel Roscoe said.
The district has saved about $100,000 annually by not filling four vacant teaching positions and had planned to reduce up to 10 more positions regardless of the levy’s passage.
The district also has combined classified positions to reduce health insurance costs and implemented a $300 fee for pay-to-play.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.