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Area voters divided on levies Paul Brotzki, treasurer of Maumee City Schools, monitors voting results.
Paul Brotzki, treasurer of Maumee City Schools, monitors voting results.
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Published: Wednesday, 11/9/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Area voters divided on levies for schools

Maumee, Washington Local, Ottawa Hills OK'd; 4 others fall

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Maumee City Schools voters on Tuesday headed off a possible 30 layoffs, bus-service cuts, and a steep increase in activity fees by approving a 4.9-mill continuing levy for operations.

"This was a great night for our students, and a great night for the community," schools Superintendent Gregory Smith said after the board of education tallied unofficial returns from district polling places.

But while a 4.9-mill levy also passed in the Washington Local Schools district and Ottawa Hills voters overwhelmingly approved replacing an expiring, 1.5-mill capital improvements tax with a continuing, 2-mill levy, it was a day of disappointment for four other school districts in suburban Toledo whose levy requests were defeated.

"We're disappointed, but the vote is what it is," said Jim Witt, superintendent of schools in Lake Local, where a 4.75-mill, five-year operating levy failed by more than 350 votes. "Twenty-two hundred people in our community thought, for whatever reason, that the money isn't needed or we should make more cuts. We respect the democratic process."

Other taxes to fail included a 0.25 percent income tax in the Evergreen district; a 37-year, 6.95-mill bond levy for a school construction program in the Woodmore district, and the replacement of two existing capital levies with a single, 1.6-mill buildings and improvements tax in Genoa. The latter, designed to cause no tax increase, failed by just 38 votes and is likely to be recounted.

The Maumee levy's unofficial approval by a 1,000-vote margin followed, by six months, a 110-vote defeat of a tax that was 1 mill higher. School officials had warned that while they would likely come back to voters again in the spring if the question on Tuesday's ballot failed, the district would face deep spending cuts because collection of any tax approved in 2012 would not start until 2013.

"Letting people know what was at stake if it didn't pass was huge," Mr. Smith said, crediting "a lot of hard work by a lot of great volunteers getting the message out, and people talking to friends and neighbors" for the levy's passage.

"We're very grateful to the community. They have really stood up and supported us," school board President Sylvia Washburn said as board members and supporters gathered in the board's meeting room at the administrative offices.

Earlier in the day, the Maumee schools' administration building was a polling place, where voter Al McEwen said he had voted for the levy despite tough economic times.

"We felt that it's the right thing to do," said Mr. McEwen, accompanied to the polls by his wife. "We're firm believers in the schools."

Others said they considered the schools' financial need had worsened after the May levy defeat and ensuing warnings of another failure's consequences.

"I felt this was an important one to invest in," said Liora Phillips, the mother of a third-grader and kindergartner who professed having moved to Maumee two years ago because of the schools. "It's for our children."

The Maumee levy is expected to raise $2.27 million and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $150 in annual tax.

One mill equals $1 of tax for each $100,000 of assessed property value.

The Washington Local levy also will add $150 to the tax bills for $100,000 houses, and is expected to raise $4.5 million annually. Schools Superintendent Patrick Hickey credited its passage to voter confidence in the district's management, which he said school leaders have cultivated with prudent decisions and strong communications with the public.

"We are just so thankful to our community," Mr. Hickey said. "We're going to work real hard to hold their trust, and also to gain the trust of the people who voted against us."

Mr. Witt, meanwhile, said the Lake school board would "regroup" when it meets Nov. 16 to discuss the district's 2012 finances.

"Our options are few, and none of them are pleasant," he said.

Staff Writer Gabrielle Russon contributed to this report.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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