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Published: Tuesday, 5/8/2007

Suburban schools take a beating at the polls

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It was a miserable night for suburban Toledo school districts, with voters defeating all but one local school levy.

Voters turned out to reject school levies in Perrysburg, Swanton, Northwood, Genoa, Bedford, and in the Anthony Wayne, Otsego, and Mason Consolidated school districts.

According to unofficial results, only Rossford Schools passed a levy but only one of two it had on the ballot. Rossford voters narrowly approved one of the two 7.9-mill, five-year operating levies, and the other one failed.

I am encouraged that one has passed, Rossford Superintendent Luci Gernot said. It was good to see that the second one, even though we have more negative votes than positive votes, that it s very, very close.

Together, the Rossford levies represent $6 million, or 30 percent of the district s operating budget.

A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable property.

Mrs. Gernot said she anticipates that the school board will put the failed levy on the ballot again later this year and hopes it will pass.

School officials from the Anthony Wayne Local School District, which draws students from Waterville, Whitehouse, and Monclova and Waterville townships, were hoping to pass a 4.5-mill, five-year emergency operating levy to help alleviate its financial crunch, but missed the mark by a narrow margin.

The cash-strapped school system, which has been placed in a state of fiscal caution by the Ohio Department of Education, has been looking at spending cuts and revenue enhancement as a strategy for financial stability. Since December, the school board has eliminated three administrative positions and made a host of other cuts to trim spending by nearly $600,000 a year.

The new tax would have produced about $4 million annually for the district that extends into Fulton and Wood counties.

In Wood County, the Perrysburg Exempted Village School District will not be expanding or renovating all six of the district s buildings, now that voters gave the thumbs down to a 2.29-mill, 28-year bond issue by a small margin.

The major project envisioned by school officials is at the junior high, which used to be the high school and has never been remodeled for use as a junior high. Plans called for adding a wing to the building for sixth graders, who were moved there in 2002 from the Commodore Building, and enlarging the cafeteria and music area to alleviate crowding.

They also anticipated adding air conditioning to Toth and Frank elementary schools, and a multipurpose room to the high school that would be used for large group functions.

Plans also called for construction of a second, auxiliary gymnasium at the district s new high school, which opened in 2001.

Also in Wood County, officials with the Northwood Local School District were counting on voters to approve an additional, 5.9-mill continuing operating levy on the ballot to offset a projected $1.3 million deficit in June, 2009, but it was rejected by a wide margin.

The levy, which would have raised $740,000 annually, would have paid for any operational costs including teachers salaries, textbooks, technology, transportation, and utilities.

Current programs may also be in jeopardy in the Otsego Local School District in Wood County now that voters rejected a 5-mill, five-year operating levy by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

The income tax adopted by voters in 2002 has raised about $300,000 less each year than anticipated, leaving district officials with the burden of making up the difference. They ve been doing so with surplus funds that are now almost all depleted.

The district needed the about $1 million produced by the millage to maintain current programs and plan for future growth, Superintendent Joe Long has said.

Voters living in the Swanton Local School District decided not to renew a 3.99-mill, five-year operating levy by a narrow margin.

If it would have been renewed, though, it would have cost them a bit less a year than they re paying now. A $100,000 homeowner now pays almost $133 a year on the levy, which is collected at 4.34 mills.

But that same homeowner would have paid about $11 less annually because property values in the district have increased and there have been changes in taxation of public utilities and business inventory and equipment.

The levy now collects $825,000 a year for the school district that sits between Lucas and Fulton counties.

In Ottawa County, Genoa Area Local School District officials would like to continue replacing and updating school security measures with an additional, 1.8-mill continuing permanent improvements levy.

But they won t be able to for awhile, now that voters rejected that levy yesterday.

Officials have already installed doors wired with a buzzer system at two entrances at each of the district s four school buildings. But they would like to eventually pay for new and upgraded cameras on buses and video surveillance in the schools and parking lots.

Some funding from the levy that was expected to raise $290,000 a year would have also been earmarked for textbooks and computers.

Suburban Michigan schools fared no better that surburban schools in Ohio, with Bedford and Mason voters both defeating requests for sinking funds to help repair and maintain buildings.

Contact Erika Ray at: eray@theblade.com or 419-724-6088.

By JENNIFER FEEHAN

BLADE STAFF WRITER

In a surprise upset, retired Findlay police officer Pete Sehnert defeated Findlay Mayor Tony Iriti for the Republican mayoral nomination on Tuesday.

Mr. Iriti had hoped to serve a second term so that he could move ahead on a number of projects, including addressing the city s flooding problems.

The people that came out and voted decided this wasn t the direction they wanted the city to go in, Mr. Iriti said last night.

Mr. Sehnert, who spent 26 years with the city police department before retiring last year, will face Democrat Thomas M. Knopf in the general election.

Findlay voters selected incumbent City Council President Robert E. Schuck over 2nd Ward Councilman H. Richard Rowe, Jr., for City Council president.

For three at-large council seats, incumbents James P. Slough and Randy C. Ward and newcomer John T. Urbanksi were the top vote-getters over incumbent Andy Peters. They will appear on the November ballot with Democrat Mario J. Bower.

In the 5th Ward, Republican Debra E. Seng easily won over David Rader. She will face incumbent Michael Eier, a Democrat, in November.

Hancock County voters approved a 1.3-mill operating levy for the county s Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board, which plans, distributes, and oversees funding for local mental health and substance-abuse services. The levy, which will replace a 1-mill levy that generates $1.6 million a year, will provide an additional $150,000 a year that the agency intends to put into early intervention, peer and family support, and school-based services.

For the second time, Columbus Grove Local Schools, which draws voters from Putnam and Allen counties, lost a bid for a combined 23-year, 0.25 percent income tax and a 28-year, 7.72-mill bond issue that would have raised $9.8 million to build a new school for prekindergarten through high school on 35 acres adjacent to the existing school.

Voters also defeated a 0.5-mill, continuing permanent improvement levy that would have generated about $40,000 a year to maintain the new school.

One of the smallest school districts in the state, Vanlue Local Schools, will not be building a new school with state assistance.

Voters defeated a combined 28-year, 4.1-mill bond issue and 0.5 percent income tax intended to raise Vanlue s 27 percent share of the $12.7 million project.

Also in Hancock County, voters in the Cory-Rawson Local School District rejected a 7.8-mill, 28-year bond issue intended to generate $8.7 million to build a 39,500-square-foot addition for prekindergarten through fourth grade.

The North Baltimore Local School District, which was on the ballot for the fourth time since last May, was finally successful at securing new operating dollars.

Voters approved a five-year, 1 percent income tax that will be calculated on earned income only. It will generate an estimated $626,843 a year for the southern Wood County district.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-353-5972.

Voters in the Sandusky County Park District, who turned down a funding request last fall, gave their approval Tuesday to a 1-mill levy.

Park officials had hoped that a single levy would be less confusing than in November when voters rejected the district s request for a 0.5-mill replacement levy and 0.5-mill additional levy.

Approved yesterday by a healthy margin was a 1-mill levy that will generate about $1 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $30 a year. It s been 18 years since the park district had a millage increase.

Parks Director Steve Gruner, who was pleased with the outcome, said passage of the levy means that the 10.5-mile extension of the North Coast Inland Bike Trail is now a go.

Voters in the Fremont City School District, who rejected operating levies last May and November, yesterday narrowly defeated a 0.5 percent, five-year income tax that would have generated an estimated $2.6 million a year.

The district, which has a $1.5 million operating deficit, has been directed by the Ohio Department of Education to work out a fiscal recovery plan.

In Ottawa County, voters in the Benton-Carroll-Salem district renewed by a wide margin a 4.33-mill, 5-year operating levy, and renewal of 7.5-mill, 5-year emergency operating levy was approved in Fostoria Schools, a district that includes parts of Seneca, Hancock, and Wood counties.

Levy requests by other school districts didn t fare as well. In the Bellevue City School District, which includes parts of Sandusky, Erie, Seneca, and Huron counties, voters turned down a 0.75 percent, five-year income tax that would have generated about $1.7 million a year.

In Seneca County, Tiffin City School District residents rejected a 1.5-mill, five-year permanent improvement levy that would have replaced a 1-mill levy that has been on the books since 1978 and expires at the end of the year. The new levy would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $46 a year.

A 1.5-mill, 5-year replacement levy was defeated by voters in Clyde-Green Springs Schools. The district includes parts of Sandusky and Seneca counties.

By MEGHAN GILBERT

BLADE STAFF WRITER

Voters in the counties west of Toledo yesterday supported ambulance services in Henry County and approved a request for more tax funds for the county library system in Defiance County.

In southern Henry County, a wide margin of voters approved a 2.9-mill, five-year operating levy to fund a new ambulance district created after the county s recent budget crisis.

Proponents said before the election that if the levy had failed, residents requiring ambulances might have had to wait for emergency vehicles coming from as far away as Napoleon or Defiance.

The newly formed Henry County South Joint Ambulance District sought the levy to raise $380,000 a year to pay for emergency medical services in the villages of Deshler, Hamler, Holgate, New Bavaria, and Malinta and in Bartlow, Marion, Pleasant, Flat Rock, Monroe, and Richfield townships.

The village of Florida in Flat Rock Township is not part of the district.

Henry County Emergency Medical Services now covers those villages and townships, but because of budget woes, Henry County commissioners cut funding to the organization.

In Defiance County, voters approved a request from the public library asking for a new 0.75-mill, five-year operating levy to raise more than $502,000 a year at a cost of almost $23 a year to the owner of a $100,000 home.

Library Director Marilyn Hite said the libraries in Defiance, Sherwood, and Hicksville would resume longer hours with money generated from the levy.

The Defiance library is now closed all day Friday and Saturday after cutting 20 hours from its schedule because of a budget crunch.

There also were contested Republican primaries for mayor on the ballot in the cities of Defiance and Napoleon.

In Defiance, two downtown business owners battled for the nomination and Peter Lundberg, 57, defeated Ellen Upp, 58, by a wide margin.

Mr. Lundberg will face incumbent Bob Armstrong, a Democrat, in November.

In Napoleon, Matthew G. Wells, 36, won the Republican mayoral nomination.

Mr. Wells, a board of public affairs member, defeated by a wide margin Travis Sheaffer, 33, who has been a city councilman for 16 years.

There are no Democratic candidates.

In Fulton County, the only countywide issue was a 2-mill, five-year renewal for the county board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, which passed.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:mgilbert@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

From earlier editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

Voter turnout was "pretty high" this afternoon in Lucas County, thanks to interest in school levies in the Anthony Wayne, Swanton, and Otsego school districts, election officials said.

Jill Kelly, director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said voter turnout as of 1 p.m. was 18 percent for the primary.

"It has been higher than it usually is, especially because it's early in the day," said Ms. Kelly. There are no countywide issues on the Lucas County ballot.

Tina Dover, left, and her husband Ron Dover, vote at the Swanton Church of the Nazarene in Swanton. Tina Dover, left, and her husband Ron Dover, vote at the Swanton Church of the Nazarene in Swanton.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Anthony Wayne Schools is looking for an additional 4.5-mill, five-year emergency operating levy to avoid a deficit. The district is primarily in Lucas County, but extends into Fulton and Wood counties.

Ms. Kelly said that in 2003, the last time the Anthony Wayne district had a special election, total voter turnout was more than 31 percent.

Pockets of Lucas County residents are also voting on ballot issues involving the Otsego and Swanton school districts.

The Swanton schools are looking for the renewal of a 3.99-mill, five-year emergency operating levy. For the owner of a $100,000 owner-occupied, renewing the levy would cost just over $122 a year. Such a homeowner now pays almost $133 a year on the levy, which is collected at 4.34 mills.

Brett Kolb, director of the Fulton County Board of Elections, characterized turnout this morning as "light," predicting that there will probably only be about 15 percent voter turnout county wide today because it is a off-year election.

"That s only a prediction because voters are their own people," he said.

Fulton County residents are casting their votes on a county wide renewal of a 2-mill, 5-year operating levy for the Fulton County Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

Voter turnout in Wood County was "fairly light," said Terry Burton, deputy director of Wood County Board of Elections.

"We talked to precincts at noon that were at 30 [voters] and we talked to precincts at noon that were at 100," he said.

Anthony Wayne, Otsego, Perrysburg among many on ballot

From earlier editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

By JANE SCHMUCKER

BLADE STAFF WRITER

Polls will be open today in almost all northwest Ohio counties and all Michigan counties for voters to make decisions on issues ranging from ambulances to zoning.

In Ohio, there are elections in 71 of 88 counties. Paulding and Wyandot are the only northwest Ohio counties that don t have an election today.

Across the state, there are 419 ballot issues, including 32 requests for bond issues, almost 350 requests for taxes, 25 questions of alcohol sales, and 12 zoning questions.

Among those topping the ballot in the greater Toledo area are:

• Anthony Wayne Schools: Additional 4.5-mill, five-year emergency operating levy to avoid a deficit. The district is primarily in Lucas County, but extends into Fulton and Wood counties.

• Otsego Schools: Additional 5-mill, five-year emergency operating levy to avoid a deficit. The district is primarily in Wood County, but extends into Lucas and Henry counties.

• Perrysburg Schools: 2.29-mill, 28-year bond issue for school construction.

• Northwood Schools: Additional 5.9-mill, continuing levy for operations.

• Genoa Schools: Additional 1.8-mill continuing permanent improvements levy.

• Swanton Schools: Renewal 3.99-mill, five-year emergency operating levy. For the owner of a $100,000 owner-occupied home, renewing the levy would cost just over $122 a year. Such a homeowner now pays almost $133 a year on the levy, which is collected at 4.34 mills.

• Rossford schools: Two replacement 7.9-mill, five-year levies for operations.

• Lake Township: Additional 2.9-mill continuing police levy.

• Henry County South Joint Ambulance District: Additional 2.9-mill, five-year operating levy. Emergency medical service in the area is now provided by the county, but commissioners decided to cut it in a budget crunch.

• Defiance Public Library: Additional 0.75-mill, five-year operating levy.

Several northwest Ohio cities, including Findlay, Napoleon, and Defiance, have contested primaries for Republican mayoral candidates.

In Michigan, this is the third year for spring elections in May. Before 2005, they often were held in June, but government entities also could request an election at almost any time.

More than 500 Michigan school districts have tax requests on the ballot, which also includes races for school board and other questions in many areas.

Locally:

• Bedford Schools: Additional 0.5-mill, 5-year capital improvement levy.

• Mason Consolidated: Additional 2-mill, 5-year capital improvement.

Voter turnout across Michigan is predicted at 10 to 15 percent, according to the Secretary of State s office.

The Ohio Secretary of State s office has not predicted voter turnout. But local elections officials in several area counties have predicted turnout would be between 15 and 30 percent.

Ohio has 7.9 million registered voters, although polls will not be open to all of them. Michigan has almost 7.2 million registered voters.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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