Nordonia Hills voters reject proposed 3-mill school levy in 2012

by Jeff Saunders | reporter Published:

Nordonia Hills -- As in the previous year, the school district asked voters for additional revenue in 2012, but unlike 2011, the voters said no.

Voters rejected Issue 65, a 3-mill continuing operating levy, Nov. 6 by a final official count of 10,565 to 7,094.

It came a year after voters approved a 6-mill levy operating levy.

The levy would have raised about $2.8 million per year and cost homeowners about $92 annually per $100,000 in market value.

District officials, however, said that unlike the earlier levy, failure of Issue 65 would not result in budget cuts, but passage would mean a return of some things that had been cut in the previous two years.

"We told the community we were going to give them the opportunity to decide what kind of school district they want and they decided," said Superintendent Joe Clark after the results were final election night.

This included a partial increase in busing. The district cut busing in November 2010 to state minimum standards, with no high school students, as well as no lower-grade students living within two miles of their schools, getting transportation. If Issue 65 had passed, all students living more than one mile from their schools would have been eligible for busing.

In addition, the district would have added six new teachers to Nordonia Middle School, four to reduce class sizes and two to return foreign language instruction to the school.

Total cost of the busing and teacher increases were estimated at about $800,000, with the district planning to use the remaining $2 million to delay seeking another levy.

The district's latest five-year forecast, which the Board of Education approved in October, projects the district will remain solvent through 2015 with current revenue. District Treasurer Karen Obratil estimated that the 3-mill levy would have added an additional two years.

Board members said that if the levy failed, they would not make another attempt until at least November 2013.

As with previous levies, the Friends of Nordonia Schools, a political action committee, campaigned for its passage. But for the first time since at least the 1990s, there was an opposing PAC, Citizens for Strong Nordonia Hills Schools.

It argued that the district needed to improve controlling costs, particularly seeking higher employee contributions for healthcare costs, before asking for more money from taxpayers.

"Hopefully the board will start to rein in out-of-control costs," said the PAC's chairman, John Brachna.

The district responded by saying it was gradually looking at increasing employee contributions and that employees had agreed to past wage freezes, as well as a two-year freeze this year.

"As the Board's representative on the contract negotiating team," said Board member Steve Bittel, "based on my experience, you need to look at a contract in its totality, not just one clause."

Bittel, along with Board member Jim Virost, had voted against placing the levy on the ballot.

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9432

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.