Voters in many local communities will cast ballots on school levies Nov. 5. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

November election: How busy your ballot is depends on where you live

Frustration with national and state politics leads to decline in local candidates, expert says.

Local communities will elect dozens of mayors, school board members and township trustees on Nov. 5, while tax levies on that ballot will help decide the future of West Carrollton’s schools, Riverside’s roads, Troy’s parks and several other communities.

Residents have just more than a week to register to vote — Monday, Oct. 7 is the last day — and early voting begins the next day.

Odd-year elections don’t include high-profile national and state races for offices like president, governor, Congressman or even state senator. But this fall’s votes will have major impact on truly local services — via levies for township police departments, city fire/EMS services and public schools, as well as elections to see who oversees those services around the region.

RELATED: Check your voter registration after recent changes

Following the mantra “all politics is local,” how busy your Nov. 5 ballot is depends on where you live.

Seventy-five percent of Kettering residents can put their feet up on Nov. 5, as both school board elections and the municipal court judge race are uncontested — the number of candidates is equal to the number of seats up for grabs. And only one of the four city council races (Ward 4 in west and central Kettering) has competition.

But if you live in Beavercreek, Julie Vann and Bob Stone are squaring off for mayor, four people are battling for three city council seats, three people are vying for two spots on the school board, and a new Beavercreek Twp. fire levy will determine whether city and township residents chip in an extra $6.1 million per year.

Tax levies abound

There’s no shortage of tax levies on the Nov. 5 ballot, with 48 of them in the four-county area. But 34 are flat renewals of taxes that are already on the books. The 14 levies that would raise taxes include four for schools, five for fire/EMS service and two for road funding.

** Centerville schools are asking voters to approve a two-part levy with one vote – 5.9 mills toward daily operations and 1 mill toward facility upkeep. The high-performing district is one of the highest-paying school systems, but hasn’t asked for a tax increase in six years.

DETAILS: Centerville levy addresses daily costs, facilities

** West Carrollton voters will decide on a 37-year bond issue that would help pay to eventually replace all of their existing schools with four new buildings, with state help. If residents approve the 5.6-mill property tax measure for the local share, the state would kick in tens of millions in funding a few years later.

DETAILS: West Carrollton aims to build new schools

** Lebanon schools are asking voters to reconsider a four-year, 4.99-mill operating levy, six months after they rejected it by a 56-44 ratio. Lebanon’s per-pupil spending is currently among the bottom 7 percent of Ohio school districts. School officials made an initial round of budget cuts and are in the midst of 11 public question-and-answer sessions to explain the levy.

DETAILS: Lebanon schools host series of public levy meetings

** The city of Riverside is also taking a second crack at a levy, asking voters to approve the same 8-mill road improvement levy they rejected last year by just over a percentage point. It’s the highest millage of any new levy on the ballot, but city officials say with 70% of roads in fair or poor condition, it still wouldn’t raise as much as a road study suggested.

DETAILS: Riverside pursues large levy for road repairs

** Troy voters will decide on a 10-year, 1.2-mill parks levy that would add more baseball, softball and soccer fields to Duke Park, along with a miniature golf course and splash pad. The levy comes three years after another Troy parks levy was invalidated days before the election because of a ballot wording error.

** City and township voters in Beavercreek will both vote on a permanent 3.5-mill fire levy. In addition to helping fund daily operations, the levy would pay to build two new fire stations and replace four fire engines, one ladder truck and five ambulances.

Greene County Board of Elections has new voting machines from Dominion Voting Systems that arrived in September. GABRIELLE ENRIGHT/STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

Many races uncontested

Voters in many jurisdictions won’t have a choice in who runs their community.

A Dayton Daily News review of ballots in Montgomery, Greene, Miami and northern Warren counties showed that the majority of races in every category are noncompetitive – candidates will be automatically elected because the number of candidates is equal to (or even less than) the number of seats up for grabs.

In the 35 local cities and villages where residents will elect a mayor this fall, 21 have a single candidate, essentially making them automatically elected. That list includes Centerville, Fairborn, Troy and Springboro. Nine have a competitive multi-candidate race – including Riverside, where four people are running for mayor – and in five small villages, no one filed to run for the office at all.

RELATED: Some cities raise pay for mayor, council

The trend is the same in every election category – school board, township trustee and fiscal officer, city/village council, municipal court judge and village clerk. Each has fewer competitive races and more vote-for-the-only-person-on-the-ballot exercises.

“Part of it is the decline of civic nature in individuals today, and part of it is the frustration with national and state politics,” said David Rich, professor of public administration and political science at Cedarville University. “That runs downhill to where people say, ‘I just don’t want to be involved with that,’ even if it’s local politics.”

The communities without competitive races run the gamut. Jefferson Twp. schools, which got the area’s only “F” on the recent state report card, have only two candidates running for two regular school board seats. But so does Oakwood, which got the area’s only report card “A.”

RELATED: Voter turnout was up in 2018 election

Rich, a former city manager in Michigan, said stable communities where things are quietly going well often have few people run for office, especially when incumbents get re-elected at an 80-85 percent clip.

He said it’s hard to find people to run for local office, especially in small communities, but added it’s important for people to take local government more seriously.

“Those small towns, it’s harder to fill those seats,” Rich said. “It’s a lot of time taken out of someone’s life to do something that seems perfunctory, when in reality, it’s your own civil government that matters. Then if your taxes go up, you have people coming out of the woodwork.”

High-profile races

** Dayton: Against the backdrop of federal “culture of corruption” prosecutions, city commission incumbents Chris Shaw and Matt Joseph are facing challengers David Esrati and Shenise Turner-Sloss in a race for two seats. In the Dayton school board race, after the district’s slight improvement on the state report card, there are no incumbents. Dion Sampson, Will Smith, Gabriela Pickett and former board member Joe Lacey hope not to be the odd candidate out in a race for three seats.

DETAILS: May primary narrowed Dayton commission race

** Tense school board races: In Bellbrook, voters overwhelmingly rejected a school levy in May after a contentious campaign. Now incumbent school board members Elizabeth Betz and David Carpenter face three challengers in their bid for re-election – Kevin Price, Heidi Anderson and Karen Long. In Valley View, where voters have rejected both an operating levy and a bond issue in recent years, seven people are running for two school board seats – incumbent Tom Geglein, plus Ben DeGroat, Tim Hewitt, Spencer Izor, Mike Jones, Mike Kilroy and Katrina Williams.

RELATED: Bellbrook levy fight included misinformation

RELATED: Valley View levy rejected by large margin

** Riverside: Mayor Bill Flaute announced this summer that he wouldn’t run for re-election, and four candidates quickly stepped up to run for the role – Mike Denning, Sara Lommatzsch, Shirley Reynolds and Pete Williams.

** Lebanon: This Warren County city may have the most crowded ballot in the area, as seven people are running for three city council seats, and six others are competing for three school board spots.

** Monroe Twp.: Trustee Ron Thuma is retiring after decades serving Monroe Twp. in Miami County. In a year when the county has a huge number of uncontested races, this one is a battle, as Lauryn Bayliff, Chuck Elliott, Greg Siefring and William Watkins are all running for that one township trustee spot.

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