Apollo plans May ballot attempt

November 27, 2012

LIMA — The Apollo Career Center school board largely blames the presidential election for its levy defeat earlier this month, and it will now look for a little help to get it passed in May.

“I heard two things, that people did not know we were on the ballot and that they were shocked it did not pass,” Superintendent Judy Wells told the school board Monday. “I do think we ran a beautiful campaign. I think if not for the presidential election, our message would have gotten out.”

Fifty-six percent of voters spanning six counties voted against the 1 mill levy to renovate and expand the school. It did not pass in any county. The board will make the official decision about a May attempt by its January meeting.

The district has until summer before losing state money for a share of the project. It must file with the board of elections by Feb. 6 to get on the May ballot. The only other opportunity would be an August special election. Board members agreed May was the best option.

The board plans to pay $400 for Support Ohio Schools Research and Education Foundation to analyze election data and help the district figure out how to get more yes votes.

Wells also recommended having an outside organization do a phone survey of voters. The final decision on this hasn’t been made. It would cost between $13,000 and $15,000.

“We could consider a true, impartial poll of the community to get data to find out exactly what are people thinking right now in all of our districts,” she said. “I think it would be a valuable thing to have rather than sitting here and giving you guesses as to what went wrong. A surveying company would give us some impartial facts.”

Board President Willie Sammetinger, of Wapakoneta, also suggested a possible board brainstorming session with member district superintendents to see what each individual district thinks.

The board reviewed a breakdown of levy results Monday. The levy failed by 5,269 votes. The levy did the worst in Putnam County, where it failed by 65 percent. It failed by 62 percent in Van Wert County, 60 percent in Hardin County, 56 percent in Auglaize County, 54 percent in Allen County and 53 percent in Hancock County.

Under the Ohio School Facilities Commission, the state would pay for 67 percent of a project. Apollo asked for additional money for technical and adult education, which the state will not pay for. The total voter share of the project would have been $30 million.

Board members agreed Monday that changing the scope of the project and reducing the millage probably isn’t the way to go.

“I don’t think a person voted no because it was $30 and will now vote yes if it is $24 or $15,” Wells said. “I think 1 mill is what we need. It is for a great purpose.”

Several board members said the presidential election and multiple levy requests in some counties hurt the levy.

“Personally I felt we ran a great campaign,” said Ned Stechschulte, of Columbus Grove. “It was a very bad time to get lost in the shuffle of all the mass inundations of pamphlets in the mail. People were focused on the presidential and senate race.”

People in Hardin County faced five levy requests, said Michael Purdy, of Hardin Northern. People voted for what mattered to them, he said.

“There were people supporting it until they got to the booth, and here are five of them (money requests),” he said.

The money voters rejected 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.

Voters in 11 schools districts vote on Apollo levies: Ada, Allen East, Bath, Bluffton, Columbus Grove, Elida, Hardin Northern, Perry, Shawnee, Spencerville and Wapakoneta.

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