Voters overwhelmingly rejected on Tuesday a new-money levy request by Springfield Local Schools, and district leaders plan to make immediate cuts to avoid a projected budget deficit.
According to final, unofficial results, more than 68 percent of voters were against the 7.9-mill operating levy, which would have been permanent, according to the Lucas County Board of Elections. Of 5,132 votes counted, 3,519 were against, and 1,613 for.
Turnout was unsurprisingly low, with only 17.4 percent of registered voters casting a ballot in the special election, according to an estimate by Brenda Hill, the elections board chairman.
About two dozen supporters of the levy gathered at the district administration building Tuesday evening, many wearing shirts that read “My heart belongs to Springfield” and “Moving forward together,” with the “for” in forward in a box with a check mark.
The supporters had expressed cautious optimism early in the evening, but as the results came in, the room went quiet as hopes were dashed.
"Obviously if it doesn't go the way we anticipated it will be disappointing," Superintendent Mike O'Shea said. "Our focus right now is on the education of 4,200 students who will be on our door step in about two weeks," he said.
If it had succeeded, the levy would have raised about $5.4 million a year, at a cost to a homeowner of a $100,000 house of $276.50 a year.
New-money levies are traditionally harder for school districts to pass in Ohio than renewal levies, so Tuesday's defeat wasn't a surprise.
Its failure will lead to about $400,000 in cuts, Mr. O'Shea said, including eliminating high school bus service, closing elementary schools an hour after the school day ends, laying off a maintenance staff member, and consolidating custodial staff.
Mr. O'Shea said he planned to meet with union leaders and his administrative team this morning to discuss implementation of those cuts.
The expected budget reductions are on top of about $1.1 million in cuts made earlier this year.
District officials have said that increased expenses, including health-care and special education costs, had caused a budget deficit to grow in the past year.
Levy opponents objected to the new tax being permanent, said the district wasn't transparent about its finances, and said residents couldn't afford additional taxation.
Some also criticized the district for not conducting a performance audit before asking voters for more money.
The levy came as the Springfield district experienced turmoil at its top ranks, including the departure of longtime superintendent Kathryn Hott in May.
Though Tuesday’s levy failed, it will appear on the ballot again in November, part of a backup plan the Springfield Board of Education crafted last month. The board also voted to place 1.35-mill renewal levy on the November ballot. That five-year levy is for permanent improvements — essentially capital funds.
If those levies fail, the district will be forced to make additional, deeper cuts.