November 7, 2012
LIMA — When Brook Hall overheard another voter say she supported the Lima schools levy attempt, the 2010 Lima Senior graduate stopped to thank her.
At midday Tuesday, Hall worried that enough wouldn’t say "yes" to the request. He was wrong as voters came through, allowing the district to avoid an additional $3 million in cuts.
“It is just a few extra dollars. I would be happy to shell out as much as they would need,” Hall said after casting his vote. “People don’t understand that education is the start of a good anything. If we have better education, we will get better jobs, we will build a better economy.”
Elida schools and Apollo Career Center voters were not as generous. Apollo voters said "no" to helping the school fund a renovation and expansion project, and Elida residents voted down an earned-income tax for operations. The "no" vote will mean reductions.
“We have some very difficult decisions to make in the next couple of months to basically reduce our staff to the point where we are not deficit spending,” Superintendent Don Diglia said, adding that a spring levy attempt is likely.
Fifty-five percent voted for Lima schools’ five-year, 5.99 mills combined operating and permanent-improvement levy. It will raise $1.38 million for operations and $462,889 for permanent improvements. The owner of a $75,000 home will pay $137.58 a year. It is the same levy attempt that narrowly failed in March.
“We have felt a lot of positive energy throughout this entire campaign and a lot of support from this community. We are very grateful and appreciative to everybody and all of the work they have put into it,” Superintendent Jill Ackerman said. “I think this campaign has left a footprint on this community, just a positive energy because it was all about the community from the very beginning.”
The district cut $1 million from its budget this year and $3.8 million the previous year. A failed levy would have met more, officials saying everything would be on the table and that impacting education couldn’t be avoided any longer.
“Cutting $3 million would have been pretty devastating to the district and actually the community because you were talking lost jobs and lost programming,” Ackerman said.
While some question whether schools truly need more money, Lima resident Ada Javier is certain they do.
“I think they need all the extra funding they can get for the updates that need made, for academics,” she said. “It is needed and it is not taking much out of the tax dollars to do so.”
Elida’s five-year, 0.75 percent earned-income tax request failed with 60 percent voting against it. It would have raise about $2.06 million a year for operations.
The district will face $750,000 in reductions now, but officials say there is not much more they can cut. At the top of things to possibly go is all-day, everyday kindergarten. Electives and extracurriculars will also be impacted.
Elida already implemented a two-year, $1.29 million reduction plan, and saved additional money this year by closing the Gomer building.
“The most difficult reaction I have right now is that we really have put off going back to the voters as long as we could because there were difficult economic times,” Diglia said. “And we have made many, many cuts and our staff is working extremely hard.”
Elida mother Tera Viola said she didn’t know much about the Elida or Apollo levies, but that she would still vote "yes."
“That is where our future is coming from and we definitely need to invest in it,” she said. “Schools are going through a rough time. Budget cuts have been tremendous. Education is a big thing. It is important. Our kids deserve it.”
Apollo’s 1 mill levy attempt to renovate and expand its building failed with 56 percent voting against it. The state would have paid for 67 percent of the project. Apollo asked for additional money for technical and adult education, which the state will not pay for.
“It is very disappointing, but we will continue to do the good job we have always done with what we have, but things will continue to fall apart as far as the building is concerned,” Superintendent Judy Wells said.
The money would have allowed the school to add 82,000 additional square feet and connect the adult education and high school buildings. It would have addressed space concerns, technology needs and infrastructure issues in the 36-year-old building. It would have benefited both the high school and adult education programs.
The district has until summer before losing the Ohio School Facilities Commission money. Wells said the board will have to decide in the next few months whether it wants to try again.
Renewals attempts did well Tuesday. Sixty-two percent of voters supported a permanent-improvement levy for Shawnee schools, and 56 percent said "yes" to a Spencerville income tax renewal for operations.
Ottawa voters supported a permanent-improvement renewal by 65 percent. Pandora-Gilboa schools saw an income tax renewal for operations pass with 59 percent voting for it. Sixty-two percent of voters supported a operations renewal for Vantage Career Center and 59 percent said "yes" to Ridgemont schools’ request for an operating renewal.
Lima attorney Ann Jacobs will keep her seat on the state school board, beating challenger Stanley Jackson, who was appointed to an open seat earlier this year by Gov. John Kasich. This will be Jacob’s second term on the board, representing 24 counties that make up District 1. She previously served on the Shawnee school board.