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, perkinslevy.com. 
 
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
MILLAGE: 6.73
LENGTH: 10 years
ANNUAL COST TO OWNER OF $100,000 HOME: $206
ANNUAL FUNDS GENERATED FOR DISTRICT: About $2.8 million
USE: Day-to-day operations, including employee salaries and benefits

Comments

PT109

What was unethical about moving the inside millage? You elected a board to do what they felt was in the right interest of the school. They felt moving the mileage would be the correct move in the long run and it was within their ability to do so, so they did. What is unethical about that?

What is wrong with encouraging everyone allowed to vote to do so? Are you saying a veteran such as myself, who has bled for this country, shouldn't be allowed to vote because I live in a nursing home? You have a lot of nerve. How do you like voting? My family and friends have died to give you that right. Enjoy it and be proud that you spit in the face of all veterans with your comments. VOTE YES!

Wald

It was unethical because the public had just voted NO to a building levy, yet they took the money anyway, circumventing the voting process that you fought for. The democratic process was taken away. You can't have it both ways. Vote NO tomorrow to retain your voting rights!

Bherrle

Wald,

At the Federal level, do we get to vote on how our taxes are spent?

At the State level, do we get to vote on how our taxes are spent?

Those are both democratic processes, aren't they? Or did I miss something in Civics class?

Wald

Except we aren't talking about Federal and State levels. You're deflecting away from the facts. A building levy failed, so the BOE took the money anyway, circumventing the democratic process. If you can't understand that, then you did miss something in both Civics class and Reading Comprehension class.

PT109

I think you owe everyone (especially the vets) an apology.

fifteenthgreen

Take a deep breath, PT. It's been a long campaign.

PT109

Length of campaign has nothing to do with it. Are you a veteran? I can't see straight I'm so mad that someone, anyone would suggest that a Veteran shouldn't have their vote counted. To complain that they don't "pay taxes", so how dare they raise my taxes. To think of those who have paid a far stiffer price than BAO's $200 a year, wouldn't be counted. Yet BAO is certainly making his opinion known. No apology...how do you sleep at night.

fifteenthgreen

I understand and can tell you're steamin'. Some of these people have been going at it, sharing information, meeting, etc. for months. Either way, this community will figure it out together.

donutshopguy

PT109,

So do you have a problem with the school board taking away your rights to vote on school buildings ? That's what will happen with the move from outside to inside millage.

Well?

Bherrle

DSG,

The BOE is not taking away the public's right to vote on school buildings. The public has a right to vote on taxes at the school district level. They get to vote on funding.

Please show me where in ORC that it states that the public gets to vote on "school buildings"?

Add to this the fact that the BOE has put it writing that any facility decisions will be held until after the November election, and then that action on whatever direction is chosen won't occur until the definition of financial stability is met.

Good 2 B Me

If we vote on funding, then we are voting NO. Last time the funding was abused and now we are saying that until Gunner and the BOE get their S*it together, forget it! That $1.7M was NOT TO FUND A STADIUM!

Strong Schools ...

Why don't you post the rest of the story about the stadium! Vote yes and stop being small minded. Think about the future for our children and community!

Good 2 B Me

The rest of the story? That They went and had it condemned? Failed to maintain it at a much more minimal cost? Which story are you referring to? Please elaborate?

Strong Schools ...

I am disappointed in you, DSG! I though you truly understood that people should not take their frustrations out on the students but take it out on the board in November. You publicly stated that on one of your blogs and you were going to rally to get the board members out.

Good 2 B Me

You read blogs for content too? Honestly?

Good 2 B Me

Good times! I think the I will crack open a cold one and watch this storm brew!

Perkins2060

I'm a combat veteran. I have a CAR and three campaign medals among other awards. Big deal. Get over yourself PT109.

queenjhb

boo hoo, no one is berating veterans, you're probably a board member or maybe Gunner, the idea that elderly vets at the vet. home ,[ some w/ dementia] might be swayed in their vote by you is sickening.

Edwin Ison

Bherrle has a new screen name.

Wald

Yep! Bherrle=PT109

fifteenthgreen

haha!

Bherrle

No, Bherrle is still here folks. Bherrle didn't have the luxury of being able to be at his computer for most of the evening.

But I'd like to meet PT109. Smart person.

fifteenthgreen

:)

Good 2 B Me

LOL...how can that be proved?

Bherrle

That's up to you to prove. Accusers have to prove the accused guilty, not the other way around.

Aside from that, it is irrelevant. The facts are what matter.

Good 2 B Me

Funny that You have yet to provide any facts. Please feel free to enlighten the masses!

ohioredbabe

Please vote tomorrow. Do not vote on rumor.
Vote informed.

Good 2 B Me

That is the only answer. Vote your heart and mind. Not a bunch of propaganda made to look like we are somehow going to benefit by signing another blank check to Gunner and the BOE!

Bherrle

It is not a blank check. Levy's are for a specific amount of money. Get informed Good 2, and quit spreading false information.

Good 2 B Me

It is not a blank check. I am fully aware of that. I am saying that I do nota want to hand the money over to them when they have proven that they are not capable of making responsible decisions with the money. Thus, the term 'Blank Check.'

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