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Published: Wednesday, 5/4/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Maumee levy fails; Sylvania's approved

Districts face cuts in state funding

BY DAVID PATCH AND JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Sylvania Superintendent Brad Rieger, treasurer Laura Sauber, Adam Fineske, school board president Vicki Donovon-Lyle, and Human Resources director Jeff Robbins react to the passage of the Sylvania Schools 4.9-mill levy Tuesday night. Sylvania Superintendent Brad Rieger, treasurer Laura Sauber, Adam Fineske, school board president Vicki Donovon-Lyle, and Human Resources director Jeff Robbins react to the passage of the Sylvania Schools 4.9-mill levy Tuesday night.
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Maumee City Schools voters narrowly rejected a 5.9-mill levy request Tuesday, while their counterparts in the Sylvania school district comfortably passed a 4.9-mill property tax that had been rejected six months earlier, according to unofficial results.

“We’ll have to obviously do a lot of reflecting. We will look at what our options are over the next several board meetings,” Maumee Superintendent of Schools Gregory Smith said after unofficial returns showed a 115-vote defeat out of 2,853 ballots cast.

While the school board will ponder ways to cut expenses beyond previous reductions, Mr. Smith said, the Maumee schools also are “going to have to secure additional revenue,” and that can only be accomplished “at the ballot box.”

But the scene at Sylvania Board of Education headquarters was one of jubilation after that district’s voters approved, by a nearly 3 to 2 spread, a tax increase that school officials said was the alternative to “devastating” spending cuts.

Faced with the potential for a third round of budget cuts, including elimination of buses for high school students and no public funds for athletics and after-school activities, Sylvania City Schools voters Tuesday approved a 4.9-mill, $7.1 million levy by a comfortable margin, according to unofficial returns.

“This is a great night for Sylvania students, our families, the businesses here, and just our community as a whole,” Superintendent of Schools Brad Rieger told a jubilant crowd of dozens of levy supporters at school district headquarters.

“We are thankful, grateful, and delighted,” said Vicki Donovan-Lyle, the Sylvania Board of Education’s president, who called the victory “a big exhale.”

Mr. Rieger had warned early last month that without the levy’s $7.1 million in revenue, he would be forced to recommend deep cuts in transportation, sports and extracurricular activities, and classroom instruction. With the school board already having cut the equivalent of 120 full-time jobs to cut $10 million from its budget since last year, the superintendent said another round of cuts would have affected 50 to 60 more positions.

“There was an awareness of what was at stake,” said James Nusbaum, the school board’s immediate past president. “Our district was going to be changed for the worse, and the community very much supported us, very graciously.

“I feel sorry for Maumee,” Mr. Nusbaum added, reacting to early returns from that district showing the neighboring school district’s levy was failing.

Without swift action Wednesday, the soonest the Maumee school board can place a new tax request is the Nov. 8 general election ballot. Wednesday is the filing deadline for an Aug. 2 special election.

Mr. Smith said he wasn’t particularly surprised by the outcome in Maumee.

While describing himself as an “eternal optimist,” the superintendent said he also is a realist — one who is aware of the economic struggles “all of us are facing at this time.”

Many people who voted against the levy might have supported it if their family finances were in better shape, Mr. Smith said: “I am very disappointed, but again, I do understand.”

Along with declines in local property values that have affected the revenue from their existing taxes, both Maumee and Sylvania face significant losses of state funding from the Kasich administration’s proposed budget cuts. Maumee has an annual budget of about $27 million, while Sylvania’s 2010-11 budget is $82.5 million.

An identical millage in Sylvania had been defeated Nov. 2 by 1,628 votes out of 22,248 ballots cast.

Turnout at the Sylvania special election was significantly lighter, with the 11,523 total ballots representing 29.3 percent of registered voters, although school officials said that was relatively high for a special election. In Maumee, the 2,853 ballots cast represented 21.2 percent turnout.

The Sylvania levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $150 in annual tax, while the Maumee levy, had it passed, would have produced a $181 bill for a $100,000 house’s owner. One mill equals $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Other school district election results Tuesday night were varied:

In the Woodmore Local Schools, which spans Ottawa and Sandusky counties, voters approved a 3.95-mill, five-year emergency levy to raise $600,000 annually. The levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 house $120.97 a year.

“That’s huge for us. Our backs were against the wall,” Superintendent John Fernbaugh said.

Last May, August, and November, voters rejected a 2.99-mill levy that would have raised $450,000 a year. School officials promised that even if the levy passed, about $235,000 in cutbacks are planned for next year.

Voters in the Wauseon Exempted Village Schools in Fulton County approved a 4.38-mill, eight-year emergency levy projected to raise $841,089 a year. The levy, which was defeated in November, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $134.14 a year.

Wauseon voters also, by a wider margin, approved the renewal of a 4.05-mill, five-year levy that generates $835,000 a year. The levy, in place since 1991, costs the owner of a $100,000 house about $120 a year.

The Board of Education identified more than $254,000 in cuts to be made regardless of election results, and agreed to put in place a pay-to-participate plan for sports and other extracurricular activities, he said.

Patrick Henry voters, in Henry and Wood counties, defeated a 6.5-mill, three-year emergency levy that would have brought in $704,400 a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $199.06 a year. The school board made $600,000 in cuts last year and recently approved $500,000 in cuts for next school year. Voters defeated operating levies in August and November.

Voters in the Arlington Local Schools in Hancock County defeated two issues — a 5.5-mill, 37-year bond issue and 0.5 percent continuing income tax that would be used to build a K-12 school and athletic complex at a total cost of nearly $30 million and, by a wider margin, a separate 0.25 percent, 27-year income tax that would raise $2.5 million to build an auditorium. Had voters approved, the Ohio School Facilities Commission would contribute $15.6 million toward construction of the new school.

Since 2007, Arlington voters have rejected three proposals to build a new school, most recently in November.

Voters of the Benton-Carroll-Salem Local Schools in Ottawa County defeated a 3.9-mill, five-year operating levy to raise more than $1.3 million a year. It would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home $119.44 a year. The levy was to be the district’s first new operating dollars in 11 years. The district has reduced staff and will close one of four elementary schools at the end of this school year, but without new operating dollars, school officials said that more buildings could be closed.

Voters of the Clyde-Green Springs Exempted Village School District, which has voters in Sandusky and Seneca, defeated a 4.9-mill, three-year operating levy that would generate $1.08 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $150.06 per year.

The district has cut nearly $1 million out of its budget the last two school years, and the school board had planned to cut another $600,000 for next year, regardless of the election outcome.



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