One of only two ballot issues on Tuesday’s special election ballot in Ohio will be decided in Ravenna, where the schools are asking the community to approve a 4.9-mill levy to upgrade security, repair aging buildings and provide a computer for every student.
The measure would raise $1.5 million annually and add $171.50 in yearly taxes for the owner of a $100,000 home.
Previously rejected by 58 percent of voters in November, Superintendent Dennis Honkala said the issue could appear again in May as voters haven’t approved additional funding since 2006.
“If it doesn’t pass, then we’ll continue to come back to the voters because the need isn’t going away,” Honkala said. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to support education. We need to give our kids the ability to compete in the 21st century.”
The Ravenna Board of Education has scheduled an emergency meeting Wednesday to file a 90-day notice to place the measure on the May ballot — should it fail Tuesday. A list of potential cuts would be made available in March.
Aside from a newer high school, built in 2010 using state and local funding, most of the school buildings in Ravenna are 70 to 80 years old. The recent cold weather burst water lines and wreaked havoc on the maintenance budget, providing a prime example of the need for continuous repairs for older buildings, Honkala said.
“We had issues in almost all of the buildings from the freeze,” he said. Older building are “just flat out costly” and the new high school is “the only one we can afford [to maintain].”
Money raised by the levy would facilitate some repairs, including new roofs and upgrades to heating and cooling systems at elementary schools. The district also plans to hire a second school resource officer or security guard. Further security measures include cameras in every school and updating alarm systems.
A portion of the additional revenue would fund a “one-to-one computer initiative,” which would place a laptop in the hands of every student.
“We just want a level playing field for our kids when they take the test,” Honkala said.
The technology is necessary to accommodate online testing requirements the state has mandated. The tests are scheduled for the spring, although they might be delayed a year by a House bill that recognizes that many school are not ready.
Ravenna isn’t alone in scrambling to find funding to buy computers and upgrade Internet access for the state testing mandates. A December survey given by the Ohio Department of Education indicates that 48 percent of students, down from 60 percent in November, do not have access to recommended technology for the online tests.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.