Several Valley school districts are figuring out what to do after voters failed to pass much needed levies during Tuesday’s primary election.
From the outside, Columbiana schools are newer looking and clean, especially when it comes to the high school and renovated elementary school, where the bulk of events take place.
“Rarely do those events happen at our middle school just because of the type of facility that we have,” said Columbiana Superintendent Don Mook.
Some of the reasons why passing the 1.23-mill bond issue for improvements at South Side Middle School was so important: Garbage cans collecting rainwater in the halls and classrooms from the ceiling tiles, and fans in the windows.
“See the material underneath, it’s coming up because of the moisture that is underneath,” Mook said.
The roof of the middle school is full of cracks and more are developing as time goes on. Mook said school officials are not sure if they will put the levy back on at this point, but the district now will have to use general fund money to fix the roof.
“Spending general fund dollars to do permanent improvement issues causes you operational issues down the road. We will certainly be in an operational issue in the near near future,” Mook said.
In Newton Falls, school officials made $600,000 worth of cuts last year and since their levy did not pass, they will have to make even more cuts, including seven teaching positions. Superintendent Paul Woodard said one of the things being discussed is pay to participate in sports, as well as other extracurricular activities.
He said it’s been 22 years since Newton Falls residents have passed a new levy. He said the district is in deficit spending and has faced more than $1 million in cuts from state and federal funding since 2009. The issue was defeated by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent, according to final but unofficial results from the Trumbull County Board of Elections.
The district most likely will try to pass the levy again, most likely in the November general election.
And weeks after opening a new high school in Niles, both levies on the ballot failed in the city school district. Seventy percent voted against a 4.65-mill additional emergency levy that would have raised $1 million for the district. The second, smaller 1-mill additional levy for permanent improvements was opposed by 69 percent of the voters.
Results from Tuesday’s election were better for other districts. By just three votes, the Brookfield Local School District passed a levy to stay out of fiscal emergency.
“We have a great community and it shows that people care about the kids in this district,” said Board of Education member Rhonda Bonekovic.
The final vote on the 4.85-mill additional emergency levy was 927 to 924, which will trigger an automatic recount.
It’s the first time a levy has passed in Brookfield in 18 years. The district already had cut six teachers.
“It’ll allow us to restore some of the programs and teachers that we had to cut that actually took us below state minimum,” said Gwen Martino, Brookfield Schools Board Vice President.
Springfield Local Schools can now start to develop a new elementary building after voters passed a 2.5-mill bond issue.
The district hopes to break ground at this time next year.
“There is no existing blueprint for this building. We will be meeting with the community, the committee, the administrators, school staff. Everybody will have a say in what this school is gonna be,” said Springfield Board of Education President Len Fagnano.
The bond issue will replace the current elementary school, which was originally built in 1923 and has been ranked as the seventh worst facility in the state of Ohio by the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission.
Members of the levy committee are excited.
“It means a safe and secure learning environment for our kids, additional technology, more space. It’s just going to be a room to grow for all of us,” said Karen Dattilo.
In Boardman, voters approved a 1.6-mill replacement levy by just four votes, which may be subject to a recount. The levy is expected to generate $480,000 annually and will go towards improvements to school security.
For the first time in 19 years, voters in Champion Township approved a new school levy. The 5.95-mill additional emergency levy received 52 percent of the vote. As a result, the district will now be able to reopen the school libraries.