'What's the next step?'

Zoe Greszler • Updated May 9, 2018 at 10:08 PM

What’s next for Willard and Monroeville schools? Both districts lost levies Tuesday night in the primary election.

“It didn’t work out the way we hoped,” Monroeville Local Schools Superintendent Ralph Moore said Wednesday.

The issue lost with 283 votes in favor of the tax and 409 against it.

The district asked for a 1.8-mill replacement levy for five years to be used for permanent improvement projects. The levy would have replaced one by the same millage that was passed in 1973 and has brought in the same amount of cash for the past 45 years, despite the district doubling in size.

“Today, we collect at 0.72-mill,” Moore said. “That’s how much it’s dropped in millage. We were just hoping to bring that up to current property values.”

This was Monroeville’s second attempt at passing the levy, after it failed by just 61 votes in November. Moore said he believes poor communication may have played a part in both losses. The superintendent agreed the organized opposition that came with Tuesday’s ballot played a part in the failure as well.

Those residents who were against the ballot issue — which was partially led by former school board members — said some of the levy’s math was fuzzy and inaccurate. Moore said that wasn’t the case, but noted poor communication could have led to confusion. 

“The past two boards, the one we currently have and the one previously, both boards voted unanimously to put this on the ballot,” Moore said. “They just were against a new tax whatsoever or they felt that it had been misrepresented and I think that’s where the confusion lies.

“There was no intent to mislead to anyone; that’s not the way we’ve done things as long as I’ve been here,” he added. “I’ll take responsibility for not communicating effectively.

“Essentially, on a $100,000 piece of property, we currently collect $22 per year. Under the new issue we would collect $63 per year. One of the things that we did was a bond refinance and we gave back to our voters. So for that, on a $100,000 piece of property, that accounts for $35 per year. So if you add the $22 and $35 together, you get $57; so subtract $57 from the $63, the increase to a $100,000 property owner would have been $6. I don’t think people understand that.

“I think the confusion came in when they didn’t understand where the $35 from the bond refinance came in and they thought that was misleading because they didn’t understand where it was from.”

Looking forward, Moore said the school board will have to decide if it wants to attempt the replacement levy a third time or go for a renewal. The board will discuss its options at the May 21 meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m.

“It’s all under discussion at that time,” Moore said. “What’s the next step? We certainly need permanent improvement (money). The board will have to decide what we need to do.”

No performing arts center?

Willard City Schools failed to pass its 1.25-percent earned-income tax levy for a continuing period of time for current expenses. In a landslide loss, 1,294 people voted against the tax, while just 461 were for it.

The levy was supposed to fund a school and community use performing arts center and would have made future operating levies unlikely, Superintendent Jeff Ritz said. 

Had the it passed, the project was anticipated to have been bid out for construction in 2021.

Ritz couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. 

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