Saturday, August 30, 2014

Renewals Pass, But Voters Reject Additional Levies
November 6, 2013 by Diane Ryder | No Comments

Voters pass school levies for Chardon and Berkshire, but Newbury and Ledgemont levies fail

Voters throughout Geauga County appeared to send a clear message to their public officials Tuesday: We will support the current tax rates, but don’t ask for a penny more.

Of the 28 tax issues on Tuesday’s ballot, all 17 of the renewal issues passed easily, but five bids for additional money were soundly defeated.

The Geauga County Health District’s five-year, 0.2-mill renewal passed by an unofficial count of 13,806, or 63.01 percent, in favor, but a 0.1-mill additional levy failed by an almost identical margin, with 13,914, or 63.66 percent, opposed.

Perhaps the most glaring exception was Chardon Schools’ continuing 5.9-mill additional levy, which passed by an unofficial vote of 53 percent to 47 percent.

Chardon Schools Superintendent Michael Hanlon credited a combination of hard work by the levy committee and packaging the right message for the win, which took some by surprise.

“First off, our dedicated levy committee did an outstanding job in communicating the importance of this levy and building on past attempts,” Hanlon said Tuesday night. “We deeply appreciate the support of the community and recognize the value of our collective future.”

The superintendent said he thought refocusing the message and telling the community of the value of their schools was the key to the passage.

“I know our board is going to begin the process of program restorations, continuing the high level of student achievement and, at the same time, keeping the district fiscally solvent,” Hanlon said. “The levy was not only necessary, but was key to keeping us fit for the long distance.”

When asked about how his job would change now that the levy was behind him, Hanlon said, “It allows us to shift our focus to the new state initiatives and invest in the program, curriculum and instruction side of the district. Ultimately prepare our students for what’s ahead.”

Voters in the Ledgemont and Newbury school districts rejected additional monies, with Newbury’s emergency 7.1-mill, five-year additional levy failing by an unofficial vote of 735, or 45 percent, in favor to 895, or 55 percent, opposed.

Newbury Schools Superintendent Richard Wagner said the district will need to come up with a plan to deal with a deficit looming within the next fiscal year.

“The voters have spoken,” Wagner said Tuesday night. “These are hard financial times. It’s difficult for folks to give up money out of their wallets.”

Board member John Gingerich said the results were disappointing.

“The district had a good, dedicated group of people working hard to get the word out to the voters and the school board thanks them. They put a lot of spirit in this election,” Gingerich said.

The board will need to decide whether to try again in May, added Gingerich, who said any levy passed next year would not be collected until 2015, so it might need to be larger than 7.1 mills in order to keep the district out of deficit.

“We’ve gotta keep trying. We just can’t roll over and give up,” he said.

Voters in the Berkshire school district passed a five-year, 2.5-mill permanent improvement renewal by a substantial margin of 1,021, or 63 percent, in favor to 601, or 37 percent, opposed, according to final unofficial results of the Geauga County Board of Elections.

Superintendent Doug DeLong said last month that passage will mean the district can make improvements to the kitchen and cooler, and add new lights to the football field, all at the Junior-Senior High School.

“We are very grateful to the communities of Burton, Claridon and Troy for supporting us and the school district,” DeLong said Tuesday night. “It’s always needed. That (permanent improvement) money is used to keep the buildings in good shape and the grounds, and also to upgrade the infrastructure and facilities. We’re grateful it passed.”

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