No August vote for Elida emergency levy

First Posted: 5/1/2014

ELIDA — After holding a community meeting to discuss a possible August vote on a 5.9 mill emergency levy, the Elida Board of Education defeated the motion by a 4 to 1 vote, leaving the November general election as the most likely destination for the levy.

Much of the community meeting, which was attended by approximately 20 members of the public, was spent trying to convince the public of the need for this levy, which would amount to an additional $17.20 of property taxes per month for a $100,000 home. Questions arose during the meeting as to how exactly this money would be spent. However, treasurer Joel Parker noted that these funds are necessary to maintain current district expenses.

“This would maintain the services we have for the next seven to 10 years, adjusting for inflation,” he said. “We want to be able to maintain our great staff and facilities while keeping a low cost, bare bones operation.”

Parker pointed to a variety of factors leading to the district’s financial shortfall, such as the loss of revenue from inventory taxes as well as tax delinquencies.

“In 2003, we had approximately $1.5 million dollars coming in by way of inventory taxes,” he said. “In 2012, we were down to about $250,000. Over the course of 10 years, that adds up to losses of $12.5 million.”

Parker also noted that Elida is one of the leanest operating districts in the state.

“We rank 592 out of 609 districts in expenditures per student, accord to data from the Cupp Report,” he said. “Ninety-seven percent of districts spend more than we do. We are also 573rd in administrative costs per student and 507th in the state in state revenue.”

While there was optimism that the message might be getting out in terms of the need for the levy, board members noted that there were many community concerns regarding the timing of an August vote, which historically brings a very low voter turnout.

“In speaking with community members, some of the biggest issues they have are the costs of an August election,” Jason Bowers said. “They think it’s too much for a school needing the money. Also, they feel it’s sneaky doing an August election since it has a low turnout.”

Jeff Christoff reiterated the need to engage with the community as much as possible prior to putting the levy to a vote.

“We need more of these community forums and more community engagement to build support,” he said. “I felt we built some support, but that negativity is still out there.”

Board president Christine Ulrich echoed that sentiment.

“I have heard negative comments from many people about this August election,” she said. “We need a strategy where we can have some more time to convince the community.”

Prior to the vote, veteran board member Brenda Stocker encouraged the board to choose the best strategy for ensuring the levy’s passage.

“There are pros and cons to both August and November,” she said. “I will support whatever decision the board makes. But we have had three failed levies. This one needs to pass.”

A resolution approving a levy issue on the November ballot still needs to be introduced. To make it onto the November ballot, a passage of two readings is required prior to early August.

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