School levies fare better here than statewide

Four local levies pass; two on the second try Although more than half of all school levies across Ohio were rejected
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010


Four local levies pass; two on the second try

Although more than half of all school levies across Ohio were rejected Tuesday, area voters were in a more generous mood.

Statewide 107 of 200 school levies failed, but levies for the Sandusky, Margaretta, Perkins and Monroeville districts were all approved.

Some experts believe voters finally comprehend what's at stake if school levies fail.

"I think it came to a point where people realized the state wasn't going to fulfill their responsibility," said former State Rep. Fred Deering, who was chairman of the finance committee. "You have no other choice but to pass the levy because you're not getting anything from the state."

Deering, who also served on the Perkins Board of Education and was an Erie County commissioner, said he thinks people in the area are starting to see that a city's future depends on the school district being financially sound.

"People are realizing the importance of an education and the importance of schools," he said. "There's no other alternative. If they're going to improve its (economic) situation, we have to be sure we have good school systems. Without producing revenue, our schools won't be able to carry out and improve their responsibilities."

Sandusky and Margaretta schools passed levies that were rejected by voters in May.

Sandusky schools cut 13 teaching positions after the 5.4-mill operating levy failed by 162 votes. If the levy had failed again on Tuesday, Sandusky would have been forced to cut 40 positions and reduce programs to state minimums.

"I'm so happy for Sandusky," Perkins school board vice president Steve Schuster said. "If they wouldn't have gotten their levy passed, I don't think any of us would have. I'm really, really happy for all of us."

Bellevue also had an unsuccessful levy on the May ballot but did not put it back on the November ballot.

In light of a controversy between two board members and a former superintendent, the board decided a levy would not go over well with voters.

Perkins interim superintendent Dennis Rectenwald and Margaretta superintendent Ed Kurt said the amount of community support this time around was phenomenal, but they are unsure why November's levies passed and May's levies didn't.

Scott Ebright, media relations representative for the Ohio School Boards Association said it's great the levies that previously failed came back on top, but it's hard to say why or if there's a trend at all -- though the trend may be in the taxpayers knowing November is the last chance to get a levy passed for the current school year.

"Each tax issue is unique unto itself," he said. "I can't really say there's any trends, but in some communities you've got to fail a couple of times before it gets passed."

Ebright said it is evident that when taxpayers believe the school board is doing its job right, they'll be more inclined to support issues concerning money.

"The public will dig deeper into their pockets if they believe the school district is a good steward of tax dollars," he said. "Many districts weren't harsh enough when telling the public what would be cut if the levy failed. Boards shouldn't threaten, but clearly inform the public about what's at stake. When boards put these levies on the ballot, they can't make any promises they can't keep. The public will remember."

School Levies

Perkins -- 2-mill renewal levy for permanent improvement; approved by 64 percent of voters

Margaretta -- 1.5-mill renewal levy for general permanent improvements; approved by 61 percent

Sandusky -- 5.4-mill operating levy; approved by 57 percent

Monroeville -- 3.2-mill emergency expense renewal; approved by 63 percent