Getting the vote out

Election day is tomorrow; Perkins Schools emergency operating levy is only item on August ballot in four-county area
Alissa Widman Neese
Aug 5, 2013
Tuesday’s special election will be a quick day at the polls for area voters.
A Perkins Schools tax levy, the district’s second attempt for new funds this year, is the only item on the August ballot in the four-county area. The 10-year, 6.73-mill levy would generate about $2.8 million annually for the district, which would stabilize its deficit budget and restore $2 million in costly cuts approved earlier this summer.
Many consider the contentious levy debate a divisive issue. 
But to Citizens for Perkins Schools, a recently organized levy committee consisting of hundreds of volunteers, it’s one of the largest unifying forces the district has seen in decades.  
Committee members have blanketed the area with reinvigorated Perkins Schools passion and reliable facts, they say.
They’ve hosted handfuls of informative events, including serious sit-down discussions, a weekend “Fun Fest” and a parade Saturday headed by an ice cream truck.
By getting involved in the community, the self-declared grassroots group hopes to gather its much-needed support.
“We all volunteered to come together because we believe in this district, these teachers and these kids,” said Jason Bennett, committee chair. “It’s brought the community together in a way we’ve never seen before, to support our kids, our future.”
The history
Citizens for Perkins Schools members didn’t get involved because they expected their job would be easy.
Although levy opposers don’t have a comparable organized effort, the group has consistently made its views known at the polls with overwhelming “no” votes. Most recently in May, voters rejected a 10-year, 4.98-mill proposal, with about 64 percent voting against it. Voters barely approved a five-year, 2-mill permanent improvement levy, a renewal, by a slim margin of 51 percent the same day.
Voters have not approved a new operating levy for the district since 2000. Before then, voters most recently approved a levy in 1991.
Several Perkins Township voters at the polls in May, some retired, said they're cutting back and can't afford an increase in monthly taxes.
New campaign strategies
This spring, about 12 people manned any efforts to promote Perkins Schools at the May polls.
This summer, the effort has swelled to at least 300 people, under the new, unified name Citizens for Perkins Schools. District parents Jason and Brandy Bennett lead the committee, with the help of individuals heading nine different sub-committees. Each leader, a community member, is paired with a school employee. Members include district parents, alumni and students.
The new group’s efforts include campaigning door-to-door, posting on social media and news websites, hosting community gatherings and question-and-answer sessions, making phone calls, distributing hundreds of yard signs and keeping voters updated on their website, 
Their goals are simple: battle misinformation with the truth, keep voters informed and use multiple means to be accessible to a broad audience.
“What I said a month ago, I still mean it — I don’t care how they vote, as long as they vote informed,” said Jason Dulaney, a sub-committee chair. “As I talked to people door-to-door an overwhelming majority of the feedback was positive. It was a great experience to talk to them, answer questions and objectively listen.”
Citizens for Perkins Schools hopes its increased efforts will generate the district’s first “yes” vote in 13 years.
Its members also hope the new campaign strategies will increase voter turnout in August. They have helped several individuals register to vote since the past election. Less than 40 percent of Perkins Township’s 10,000 voters came to the polls in May.
What’s at stake if it fails
Without additional funds, Perkins Schools is projecting a $2.6 million deficit for the upcoming school year with a budget of about $23 million, according to its most recent five-year financial forecast. It is set to spend all its reserve cash in 2014.
Because a district can’t begin a school year projecting a significant deficit, board members approved a slew of district-wide cuts in June, putting this year’s total budget reductions at more than $12 million for the next five years, with more than 40 positions eliminated.
Most eliminated staff members taught special classes, including art, music, computer and physical education.
The hot-button issue: The June reductions also hiked pay-to-participate fees to $730 per sport per high school athlete, up from a $150 fee approved in April. Costs for dual enrollment classes, clubs and music activities also increased substantially for high school and middle school students.
If the levy isn’t approved, all the reductions will be permanent and more cuts are likely looming. Board members have already certified a similar emergency operating levy for the November ballot, which they are expected to approve Wednesday.
What happens if it passes
If approved, the August levy will generate about $2.8 million annually for Perkins Schools, stabilizing the district’s deficit budget. 
The new money will fund day-to-day operations for the district, including employee salaries and benefits. The additional funds will also reverse all the June reductions, about $2 million total, allowing board members to restore eliminated staff positions and return pay-to-participate fees to their normal rates.
The levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $206 per year. Perkins Township residents currently pay $998 total in school taxes per year.
Last chance for lower tax rates
An additional, one-time factor in Tuesday’s election is a recently approved portion of the new state budget.
Citizens for Perkins Schools members are urging voters to approve the levy now, rather than later, because an identical Perkins Schools levy will cost taxpayers more starting in September, according to the budget.
Until this year, the state paid a portion of approved levies through two tax exemptions, one 10 percent and one 2.5 percent, Erie County auditor Rick Jeffrey said. Now, according to the new budget, taxpayers will pay the entirety of future levies.
Simply put: If approved in August, the levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $206 per year. If the levy fails and is approved in November, it will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $236 per year, a 14.25 percent increase of $30.
Existing and renewal levies will not be affected by the tax exemption changes.
“It’s so important voters understand the urgency to pass this now, when it costs them less,” said John Schlessman, a sub-committee chair. “We’re doing everything we can these last few days to help educate and inform people so the can get out and vote based on the facts.”
Perkins Schools emergency operating levy proposal
LENGTH: 10 years
USE: Day-to-day operations, including employee salaries and benefits


Brick Hamland

bherrle- well said. Competing in high school athletics is not about training you to be a professional athlete. It teaches you life lessons to better prepare you for the future and a career. Teamwork, confidence, leadership, how to face adversity, discipline, maturity, etc. The list goes on. For parents with kids in the schools that participate in sports, do the math: $730 a sport is the same as paying $206 for a $350,000 house a year. Most kids that play sports play more than one and most people in Perkins don’t live in $350,000 homes (this does not take in consideration the current pay to play rate which I believe is $150 but I don’t know for sure so I can’t include it in my comment)


What is a "monitory" practice? What sport was this?

Brick Hamland

good time- your spelling suggests you might have benefited from more schooling. Don't deprive your kids by "voting" no, not to mention if you vote no that "mandatory" practice will cost you $730 in the future if this fails

Dont Worry Be Happy

An additional $206 a year for every $100,000!!!! I can't afford that. Vote NO!!!!

Strong Schools ...

We can't afford a lot either but education is priceless! Vote yes and support the students!

Good 2 B Me



Vote NO!!


That 206 is just the school, not the county, not the police any of the others that will come down the road in Nov.


Perkins police replacement levy proposal
LENGTH: Five years through 2018.
WOULD GENERATE: $1.9 million a year, up from $1 million the department presently gets.
COST: Annual cost to owner of $100,000 home equals $168.44

Based on a $100,000 home:
Perkins Police $168
Perkins School $206
Perkins Township operating levy?
Perkins School again?
Erie County sales tax?
Erie County Health Department?

"WOULD GENERATE: $1.9 million a year, up from $1 million the department presently gets." That is about a 90% increase in funding for the Perkins Police.

Any other levies or taxes in the future?

Strong Schools ...

As a community, we should support fire, police, and schools. These pillars of our community make us strong and bring people to live in Perkins! We need to keep our community growing. Show your Perkins pride and vote yes!

Good 2 B Me

As a Community we should also not have to have these things shoved down our throats constantly. Many people are making less than they were just 10 years ago. Look at the Erie County numbers if you doubt me. Making less = being able to afford less, not more.


The BOE already presented its case for what it felt was the best option and the voters rejected it soundly this past May. This should be the end of story at least for a couple of years. This Perkins BOE is hell-bent on violating the wish of the majority. A BOE that uses our students and teachers as hostages need not be trusted by the taxpayers. I agree, Good 2 B Me, using little kids and ice cream to gain YES votes is a below-the-belt tactic. These parents should be ashamed!

It is upsetting to see “support our students” signs. I see the implication that a NO vote means I do not support the students which is simply not true. I will continue to pay adequate tax dollars to the school which will indeed support the students if we have a sound superintendent and BOE. It is disconcerting, to say the least, when Perkins teachers place the “support our students” signs in their yards and vehicles. Where was this theme when the Perkins teachers went on strike in 2006? It certainly appeared then that the teachers’ needs took priority over students’ needs.


Amen to that Beesknees. what you said, sums up a lot

Strong Schools ...

If you vote no than you are NOT supporting the students. All of their specials will be cut, sports fees will be very expensive, further educational opportunities will be in jeopardy. I feel Gunner has done a good job keeping us off the ballot over the past five years. The state has cut funding from our district and there is nothing Gunner could have done. Sounds like the other superintendents did not have a lot of support either so we can't say its all Gunner. People just want to complain but what they should really do is get off the couch and run for the board if they don't like how things are going.

I did not live here in the community during the strike but it is not my place to judge the teachers. I am sure it was a very hard process for them and I am not going to tie that situation into this levy. I moved here because of the schools and I am proud of the education Perkins offers. Support the students and vote yes!

Good 2 B Me

Sounds like someone works for the Schools! BTW, you just mentioned the Strike and the Levy in the same sentence.


Strong Schools mentioned something that is very important. Moved here because of the schools.

So did my family. The house we are in was on the market for over a year.

Folks, I've seen several folks say, let property values plummet, I don't care, that's less in taxes I'll pay. That's not true. Remember, Outside millage has to stay at or above the 20 mil floor. As property values decrease, and the 20 mil floor is breached, your tax level will be maintained, no matter how far your home drops in value. Your taxes will not drop that far below the level they are at right now.

Now - when the schools decline, and become less desirable, which in my opinion will happen if we vote down this levy, not only will your home values drop, but they will take longer and longer to sell. Because fewer people will want to move into the district.

I understand that $206 per year for a $100,000 home is not easy on the wallet, but when you decide your vote, make sure you consider all of the ramifications of your vote, pro or con.

I'll be Voting Yes for the Perkins School Levy, and I ask you to strongly consider doing the same, for our communities children's future, and for yours.

Good 2 B Me

SS also is spreading false statements and changing their story to fit their rebuttal.

God Of Thunder

" I feel Gunner has done a good job keeping us off the ballot over the past five years."

Apparently you haven't been here for the past 5 years. Wow, you ARE uniformed....or brainwashed..

VOTE NO!!!!!!


Vote YES like every serious suburban city. You talk the talk with your property but you can't afford your youth. Your full of fluff Perkins. Even Sandusky got it right.

Strong Schools ...

It takes a community to raise a child and it takes a community to educate a child. Vote yes and put others before yourself!

Good 2 B Me

Stop it! Your 'yes man' mentality is hilarious!

Good 2 B Me

My full of fluff? You're*

This is also a Township, not a Suburb or a City.


Your nothing without youth.





Did I miss it or did you just not report at all about Gunner's decision to place new buildings and facilities over the education of students, their educational and athletic programs and faculty positions?

This is an operations tax increase. Gunner states that he will have to "dismantle the district" and that Perkins will "lose its district" if this tax increase does not pass. However, Gunner moved millions of dollars away from operations to build his new buildings and facilities, and took out $3.5 million in loans to plan and design these new buildings. Of course, they need a new operations tax increase!

Remember when you go to the polls Gunner's divisive leadership, and obviously his abhorrent financial leadership:

Revenue has increased 13% in the last 5 years for Perkins Schools. Yet, Jim Gunner has led the district to a profit decline of 170% in the same time period. Revenues up 13%, yet net income goes from $1 million+ to a LOSS of $1 million+ per year.

Shockingly, Jim Gunner still has a job... and wants MORE of our tax money.

Those are the facts.


This is a total fluff piece, per the editor's orders, I'm sure.

Good 2 B Me

Absolutely! Since Gunner blamed the SandPaper for blowing it last time. Notice how little time has been spent by the SandPaper in talking about the Levy this time.

Strong Schools ...

Get over yourself, Citizen. You didn't mention anything about the state cutting over 2 million dollars from our district..which is out of Gunner's control. He has been dedicated to our district. Those are the facts! Vote Yes!

Good 2 B Me

So dedicated that he chose NOT TO LIVE HERE!



Newspapers are tasked with reporting facts, not political spin. If Dr Gunner and the BOE weren't trying to take care of the buildings, you'd be saying that they don't care about the students. Either way, they are wrong.

Those statements are being taken out of context, and you are twisting what they were meant to illustrate. The millage was moved to provide PI funds for whatever direction facilities take. See the BOE's Letter to the Editor. Nothing is decided, it is in writing, yet you continue to state otherwise. The $3.5 loan was to pay for architectural fees related to the stadium, and building planning, as well as further studies into renovation vs. building. No matter what is done, options need to be available to choose from.

Dr. Gunner's leadership is not divisive. No Super will ever have the entire community behind him. Some will always disagree. How they choose to disagree is what creates the divisiveness. Levy votes do not necessarily represent the majority of the community. The May 2013 operating levy produced just a 40% turnout.

Your numbers are flawed, I addressed this in another post.