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



Why so many involved with the levy now? Oh yeah...the pay to play threat. Nice to know where the priorities are in Perkins. There's no "pride" until sports are threatened. Please vote NO to this veiled building levy.

Strong Schools ...

This is not for buildings..It is for operations! If you are that unhappy, step away from your computer and run for the board. Don't take it out on the students. You are taking your frustrations out on the wrong people. Show your Perkins pride and vote yes!

Good 2 B Me




What really drove me to get involved was the fact that the Renewal Levy that was on the May 2013 ballot almost didn't pass!! I believe it passed 51%-49%. Our district almost didn't approve renewing existing tax rates! And only 40% of registered voters voted.

Good 2 B Me

40% is not uncommon.


I doubt that the ice cream was really "free", so where did the money come from to pay for it?

Good 2 B Me

The handed it out for FREE. No matter who donated it, they were using Children for their dirty work. Sickening!


Allowing the children to support their school and activities is not "dirty" work anymore than it is to allow them to sell Girl Scout cookies or pass literature advertising their Sunday School program. Your opinion of society and your neighbors is warped. I think the youth of today should be encouraged to stand up for what they believe in. We did it when I was young and it is thinking like yours ("dirty" work) that has turned this country into a bunch of entitled whiners...but that's just my opinion.

Good 2 B Me

No, making kids come out and walk to deliver free ice cream and push for the levy, something that they have no concept of, is dirty. But that's just my opinion. I worked many years before you, I am sure of that. Don't preach to me about the kids being entitled. My kids all worked/work. My opinion is that it is low to make the kids do it. Trying to pull at the heart strings of the people. LOW LOW LOW!

Pirate Mom

The money was raised by these kids, parents, grandparents, teachers, and administrators by fundraising and donations. Thousands of dollars had to be raised to give "free" ice cream to citizens. People who care about supporting schools to keep our home values competitive.


Why not make donations to Perkins Schools instead of donating to a tax increase committee?

Maybe Perkins Schools out to hire a Development Director charged with raising private monies from individuals, foundations and corporations. Perkins Schools would be much better served having a Development Director on payroll than.... an incompetent, overpaid Communications Director.


To show the youth of today nothing good comes easy but with the "right" attitude and hard work, you can accomplish anything.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


In a meeting previous to June 12 the treasurer was quoted as saying that athletics were not going to be touched because the program was such a small part of the overall budget. How is it then that at the June 12th meeting Athletic Director Mike Strohl's name was on the list of staff being cut in the reduction of work force, but in another attempt by Gunner to blackmail the parents, his salary is now being paid by the pay to participate fees (730.00 per sport) in the high school??

Good 2 B Me

This is one shady deal.


Why is it shady?

Good 2 B Me

The way that we were robbed of the $1.7M and now having it shoved down our throats that All Mighty Sports will be hurt if we don't. We need a BOE that is willing to remove the Loopholes that allowed this to happen in the first place.


The Board cannot change state law Good 2 B Me.

Good 2 B Me

Sure it can. It needs to work with the State and when they do, you might be surprized how much could get done.


Welcome to Perkins Local Schools of smoke and mirrors!


And community members that like to throw out vague allegations with no supporting information on which anyone can investigate and determine they are baseless. I say make an allegation, bring proof.


Bring proof? As to what? Flavors of free ice cream and girl scout cookie comments.


Try having a legitimate discussion. Not vague accusations. I'm not late until 7 pm tomorrow.


This goes beyond tomorrow at 7PM...either way. Please remember that.


How does this levy "support our kids" when it is to pay salaries for teachers and admin ?


Don't you need teachers to teach classes? It's been a while since I sat in a classroom, but I think the teacher is still an important part of the educational process.


"The new group’s efforts include campaigning door-to-door"

Knock! Knock! Knock!


Good 2 B Me

If the voters cannot see through this, it will be a sad day tomorrow. What a joke Perkins is becoming! Thank you Jim Gunner and the BOE.


Actually I appreciated the people doing more than sitting on their bottoms typing on a computer to tell me what they think is right for their kids and community. I've had a couple people come to my door that explained their reasoning respectfully and non-accusatory. You haven't done that yet.

Good 2 B Me

What is your name and address so perhaps we that conversation could take place?