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Published: Thursday, 5/8/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

Sylvania Schools, told ‘no’ in primary, likely to ask voters again

BY NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Knocked down, but not out, Sylvania Schools is likely to seek additional levy dollars in the future after voters rejected the district’s plea for increased funding Tuesday.

“In the aftermath of this defeat, we will be reducing the scope of our district priorities in technology, curriculum, and safety and security upgrades. After analyzing the election results and consulting with community members and district stakeholders, the Sylvania Board of Education will determine the appropriate time to be back on the ballot with an operating levy,” Superintendent Brad Rieger said in an email to The Blade.

Tuesday, the district’s 3.8-mill operational-levy request was defeated by more than 500 votes. Final, unofficial results released about 4 a.m. Wednesday showed the levy failing with 4,864 “no” votes to 4,357 “yes” votes.

It was one of 10 levies on the ballot in the region, including a 4.37-mill levy at Bedford Schools that was defeated by 2,061 votes. According to the Ohio School Boards Association, voters across Ohio approved 102 of 148 school tax issues in Tuesday’s primary election.

“I was cautiously optimistic that we would win. You can never be over confident when approaching an election. That’s why we worked so hard, understanding there was tax weariness pervading the whole community,” Sylvania Schools Board President Jim Nusbaum said, adding the board will analyze voting results.

Sylvania’s levy would have collected an estimated $4.9 million per year in revenue for personnel, curriculum, and technology.

The district projects a $1.4 million deficit in July, 2016. If passed, the added annual cost to the owner of a $100,000 home was estimated at $133 each year.

The district enlisted nearly 300 volunteers to implement a three-pronged campaign that included calling voters, hanging 3,000 leaflets on residential doors, and having a presence at the polls Tuesday.

Before the election, district leaders said they anticipated the issue would be approved with 65 percent of the vote.

Some Sylvania voters, however, said the district did not present a good case for increased funding. Some voters said they rejected the levy because they are weary of tax increases and they were put off by rumors of extravagent spending plans for the levy revenue.

Some said the district should tighten its belt before turning to voters for more money.

Bedford Public Schools’ request for a new 4.37-mill facilities issue lost by a wide margin.

The school board envisioned using $70.35 million that the issue would have raised for upgrades to the district’s buildings, most of which date to the 1950s and ’60s, and to build a new elementary school and demolish Jackman Road and Douglas Road elementary schools.

The request was the only item on the ballot in Bedford Township and drew a heavier-than-expected turnout of 56.33 percent of the community’s 14,769 registered voters.

The “no” votes were 62.56 percent of the total cast.

Board President Michael Smith said district officials would return to the voters in November.

He did not rule out the possibility of a scaled-down request, but said “it wouldn’t necessarily help us,” given the condition of facilities.

School officials have said all along that simply addressing the buildings’ critical needs would saddle a future board with the problem of old buildings and debt.

Board member Joe Gore said, “Doing it right the first time is cheaper.”

Staff writer Carl Ryan contributed to this report.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.



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