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Woodridge levy fails, Richfield levies split

8/9/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Richfield fire levy passes, road levy fails

GREATER AKRON — Woodridge Local Schools and Richfield Township levies will be back on the ballot this fall after voters in the Aug. 7 Special Election did not pass two of three local  issues on the ballot.

The Woodridge levy for new operating money failed in the third attempt this year, while in Richfield the fire levy narrowly passed but the road and bridge levy did not.

Woodridge defeat ‘disappointing’

In the Woodridge Local Schools District, a majority of voters once again turned down a request for new money for the district, which serves students living in Peninsula, Boston Township, Cuyahoga Falls and West Akron.

According to unofficial results from the Summit County Board of Elections (BOE), 51 percent of voters were against Issue No. 5, a five-year, 6.83-mill emergency levy. There were 1,715 no votes and 1,625 yes votes, according to the BOE.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” said Superintendent Walter Davis just after the results were final. “Losing by 90 votes is closer than it was before.”

This was the third time in a year the district asked voters to provide additional operating dollars for the district. In the November 2011 General Election, 52 percent of voters were against a 10-year, 5.88-mill levy request that would have brought in $2.85 million a year.

The district again went on the ballot in the March Primary Election with a five-year, 6.83-mill levy that would collect $3 million per year. In that election, 53 percent of voters were against the levy.

The latest defeat does not mean the district is giving up, Davis said. Due to the Aug. 8 filing deadline for the Nov. 6 General Election, the district’s Board of Education voted earlier this summer to place the levy on the ballot again at that time. If the levy had passed this week, the board would have rescinded that action.

Davis said the campaign for the November election will start immediately.

“We have a very spirited campaign committee, and they’re already talking about what we have to do to get this passed,” he said. “But it’s hard to imagine what November will be like.”

The superintendent said he plans to provide the community with detailed information as to what cuts will have to be made if the levy doesn’t pass once again.

“This is about opportunity for kids, and if the community continues to vote no, I have no choice but to reduce our budget by $1.8 million, cutting programs for kids and dismantling things,” he said. “I hate to do that. I hate to take opportunity away from kids. The board is with me on that, but we have to do our fiduciary duty.”

Davis said he believes there was some misinformation and misleading statements that some opposed to the levy were circulating during the campaign.

“People have the right to disagree and the right to oppose things,” he said. “But there was a lot of misinformation and misinterpretation of the law as to what we can and cannot do as a public school system. We can’t just summarily cut salaries; we have to publicly bargain as a public entity. It’s frustrating to deal with people who think we have some magic wand that I can [use to] cut people’s salaries.”

He added the district is going to enter into negotiations with its teacher and support staff unions this year.

Davis said the real problem remains that Ohio is not funding its schools constitutionally.

“Who are we really fighting here?” he asked. “Shouldn’t we be united together and demand our Ohio General Assembly do something?”

Richfield split on levies

In Richfield, voters supported the fire levy but not the road and bridge levy.

“I’m glad the fire levy passed but disappointed the other didn’t at this time,” said Trustee Laurie Peters-Gilmore.

Issue No. 1, a 3.2-mill, three-year levy for fire and emergency medical services (EMS), passed with 51 percent of voters in favor. There were 157 votes cast in favor of the issue and 148 votes cast against it, according to unofficial results from the BOE.

Issue No. 1 is a replacement of a 2.2-mill existing levy and an increase of 1 mill. It will cost the owner of $100,000 in property $98 a year. In the most recent collection year, the levy brought in $317,046. With the increase, it will bring in $448,058.

On Issue No. 2, a 2.3-mill, five-year levy for roads and bridges, 52 percent of voters were against the levy. There were 160 no votes and 146 yes votes, according to unofficial results from the BOE.

Gilmore said she has “no idea” why voters favored one levy over the other. She noted that perhaps some voters didn’t like the idea of two tax increases at once.

Both levies are replacements of existing levies that the township sought to increase slightly to address the need for additional funds, according to Gilmore. Decreasing property values led the township to ask for the increase, she has said.

In both cases, the levies were reduced from their original amounts a few years ago, when there was a budget surplus, Gilmore said. The fire levy was originally 2.7 mills and was reduced to 2.3 mills in 2006. The road levy was a 1.5-mill levy that was reduced to 1.3 mills in 2007.

The road and bridge levy — which would have funded the general construction, reconstruction, resurfacing and repair of roads and bridges — was a replacement of a 1.3-mill existing levy and an increase of 1 mill. The five-year levy would have cost about $70 a year for the owner of a home valued at $100,000, according to township officials.

In the most recent collection year, the levy brought in $186,984. With the increase, it would have brought in $322,042, according to township officials.

The levy pays for essential township services such as road resurfacing projects, snowplowing and addressing storm water issues, Gilmore said.

Because of the filing deadline, trustees took steps in May to certify the levy amounts for the November election just in case. Since the fire levy passed, trustees will rescind that legislation for the November election and the road and bridge levy will go before voters again.

“Hopefully there will be a much larger turnout in November than this one and we can better explain what services are provided and what might not be provided,” Gilmore said.

She added she thought the turnout, with just more than 300 voters, was “incredibly low.”

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