Andy Harris

KENT: For the second time in seven months, Kent voters will be asked to approve a ballot measure to increase taxes.

In May, the issue will be an 8.9-mill operating levy the Kent Board of Education recently approved placing on the ballot.

Voters in November turned down a 0.25 percent increase on the existing 2 percent income tax rate. The measure would have funded a new police facility.

Superintendent Joseph Giancola told board members that voters have not approved an operating levy for the district since 2006. He cited cost-saving initiatives and wage freezes for teachers, staff members and administrators as evidence the district has been fiscally responsible over the past seven years.

“We were able to stretch our last operating monies for seven years — well past the anticipated four years,” Giancola said. “The Kent City School District has been committed to cost savings for the last five years. We will continue to reduce the size of our overall budget in the coming years.

“Good stewardship of public funds is needed at all times.”

In stating their case for putting the levy on the May ballot, Giancola and Treasurer Debbie Krutz reported that the annual cost savings of $4.2 million will continue each year, while saying that a reduction in state funding makes passage of a new operating levy an “absolute necessity” for the district to maintain the level of performance that earned an “Excellent with Distinction” rating from the Ohio Department of Education for the past year.

Asking voters for more money has proven to be a tough sell for other districts in Portage County. Levies for Field and Waterloo schools have failed multiple times in recent years.

Following the November defeat of the income tax proposal, Kent Ward 1 Councilman Garrett Ferrara suggested that those behind the measure might have a difficult time putting it back on the ballot with Kent schools preparing to place its own tax increase on the ballot in May.

But Giancola said the school district levy is different from the city’s income tax proposal.

“Each public organization operates independently of the other. So, the school district faces a very different kind of challenge when asking the voters to approve a levy,” he said.

Giancola expressed optimism over the levy’s passage and told the board that should the measure be approved, the district would “maintain its commitment to classroom instruction and extracurricular activities, as well as providing bus transportation to all who qualify” while upgrading safety and security measures and resources.