Miami Valley voters split on major school levies Tuesday, approving three requests for additional funding and rejecting four others, according to unofficial final results from local county boards of election.
New taxes were approved for Piqua, Oakwood and Beavercreek schools — where voters approved both a new levy and a renewal. Tax requests were denied in Lebanon and Tipp City, and were soundly rejected in Bellbrook and Valley View.
Bellbrook levy fails
The most hotly contested school levy in the region saw the most overwhelming rejection, as 63 percent of voters said no to Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools’ request for a 7.5-mill replacement levy.
Sugarcreek Twp. resident John Stafford ran a very active “vote no” campaign, arguing that teacher salaries and property taxes were already too high. On his “Vote No” Facebook page Tuesday night, Stafford wrote that “family, friends, and neighbors stood up, spoke out, unafraid as a community.”
The levy would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $211 per year to pay for operating costs.
Superintendent Doug Cozad called the results “extremely disappointing,” and said district leaders would discuss a new levy proposal for November, along with potential cuts if that levy also fails.
“We need to get feedback from the community, but the need for this money is not going away,” Cozad said. “I think we need to regroup and do a better job of communicating the need for this money.”
Both of Beavercreek’s school levies were approved Tuesday night — a 1-mill facilities/equipment renewal and a five-year, 6.15-mill emergency measure to pay for daily operating expenses. The renewal passed by a 66-34 ratio, while the new-money levy was approved 53-47 percent.
Superintendent Paul Otten said the $2.6 million in cuts that were approved in February will not be reinstated, but Tuesday’s vote means the district will avoid further cuts this summer.
“We are ecstatic at the result. Our campaign really focused on the message about the reductions we put in place. I think our community appreciated what we’ve done,” Otten said. “But we still have to look at everything to save money, because we want to extend this as far as we possibly can. This is not a blank check.”
Oakwood passes combo
Oakwood’s two-part school levy passed by a solid 55-45 margin Tuesday night after an 18-month public discussion of the district’s needs.
The combination levy/bond will raise money for $18 million in renovations to the district’s 90-year-old schools, as well as pay for day-to-day operating costs. The total cost of the levy is $269.50 per $100,000 of property value.
School board President Todd Duwel said the district “asked difficult and sometimes unpopular questions in an effort to discover what the community wants in its schools.”
Of the $18 million in infrastructure work, $16 million will go to the high school-junior high complex.
“Our community members value our beautiful, iconic buildings but recognize the critical needs in our facilities,” Duwel said. “We acknowledge some residents questioned this effort … because they see an opportunity for improvement and efficiency, and we agree. We must constantly strive to improve every aspect of our district and the excellent experiences we provide.”
Valley View levy fails
Voters in the Valley View school district strongly rejected a new school levy request by a 60-40 ratio. The levy was a permanent, 6.49-mill operating tax that would have raised an estimated $1.53 million annually.
Superintendent Ben Richards said the district will eliminate some teaching positions this summer and will not have the academic coach/special project roles they had set up to attack specific problems such as lagging math scores.
“There are going to be some things that I would value in education, and I think our board of education would value, that our community is saying, we don’t value as much,” Richards said. “The voters have spoken and we have a Democratic society.”
Richards said district leaders will have to re-evaluate finances before deciding whether to place any form of levy on the November ballot.
Tipp City bond rejected
Tipp City schools voters rejected a controversial 27-year, 5.4-mill bond issue that would have raised $35.7 million for new classrooms for prekindergarten through fifth-grade students. The vote was 53 percent against and 47 percent in favor.
The school board almost removed the issue from the ballot in recent weeks after state officials said a portion of the project funds could be in jeopardy because of discrepancies between the district’s application and some public statements.
The board of education was scheduled to meet Wednesday evening to discuss returning to the ballot in November.
Piqua passes by huge margin
In the Piqua City Schools district, voters approved a “renewal and increase” levy for facility improvements, extending the current 1.8 mills and adding another 1.2 mills. It will cost another $42 a year for a $100,000 home. District leaders said they are paying off the Piqua Junior High bond issue early, which would eliminate that millage and offset the new cost.
“Passage of this issue means that the district can continue to properly maintain our oldest facilities so they can be used for generations to come,” Superintendent Dwayne Thompson said. “Property owners will see (an overall) decrease in their school taxes in the beginning of 2020 as outlined in the levy campaign.”
Lebanon voters say no
More than 56 percent of Lebanon school district voters rejected a new 4-year, 4.99-mill tax levy that would have been Lebanon’s first new operating money in eight years.
“To say we are disappointed would be an understatement,” Superintendent Todd Yohey said, pointing out that Lebanon is producing good results despite being in the bottom 6 percent of the state on spending per student. “It’s a real shame that we must now begin dismantling this great program..”
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