June 28, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Buckeye Schools’ levy passes; saves 19 teachers, 17 other jobs

YORK TWP. — If waiting 18 years for a levy to pass was difficult for the Buckeye community, the last two hours may have been the toughest.

In the sea of almost 200 people in the high school cafeteria, anyone talking on a cell phone immediately attracted crowds of attention.

Buckeye Schools educational aide Monique Hendrix hugs two students in the high school cafeteria Tuesday night as they celebrate the district’s first operating levy win in 18 years. Hendrix would have lost her job if the levy failed. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JENNIFER PIGNOLET)

Who are they talking to? Do they know something?

Finally, after two hours — plus those 18 years — kids sitting on the floor jumped to their feet, adults threw their arms in the air and hugged whoever they were standing next to, erupting into cheers and tears as the Internet page projected on a screen was refreshed one more time to reveal the results.

By an unofficial count of 3,224 to 1,908, according to the Medina County Board of Elections, the district passed a 7.9-mill property tax that will bring in $3.2 million a year for five years.

The tax will cost homeowners an additional $248.58 a year per $100,000 of appraised valuation, according to the Medina County auditor.

The vote means Buckeye avoids sliding from fiscal caution to fiscal watch and fiscal emergency, the state’s three tiers of districts in financial trouble. Buckeye had been in fiscal caution since 2009.

With 63 percent approval, the levy’s passage ends an 18-year funding drought that saw 12 failed requests for new operating money. The last issue to fail was in May, when voters rejected a 1 percent earned income tax with 58 percent voting no.

This time, however, a “no” vote would have meant more than just another failure. Gone from the school day would have been classes in art, gym and music, along with lunch and recess. Honors and advanced-placement classes would have been reduced. The school day would have been shortened to five hours at the elementary school and 5½ at the high school.

Nineteen teachers and 17 other employees would have lost their jobs.

Monique Hendrix’s job was one of those on the chopping block.

“I’m so glad we get to stay,” she said Tuesday through tearful hugs from her 14-year-old son, Nathanael, and several students.

Hendrix, an educational aide, said she spent most of her summer doing some job searching in fear that she wouldn’t have one come August. At the same time, she said, she didn’t want to leave.

With the passage of the levy, she and the other staff can stay at Buckeye — and so can her son.

“I want to be here,” the 1985 Buckeye graduate said. “This is like my family. We’re all very close.”

Hendrix thanked the community profusely. And she wasn’t the only one.

Superintendent Brian Williams, a year into the job at Buckeye, stood on a chair to deliver a speech thanking not only the voters, but also the levy committees and those who spent the last few months on the campaign.

“This community and those volunteers got this done,” Williams said.

He also credited the school board for “having the guts” to approve a plan to cut $1.3 million from the budget for this school year.

View photos at SmugMug

Even with the outpouring of community support for this levy, Williams said he still wasn’t quite sure what the results would be.

But as soon as they were posted, he said, “I felt like we won the Super Bowl.”

School board President Tracy Mattern said the district’s work is just beginning, and that the board will “continue to be prudent financially.”

School board member Dennis Matson said the board “never lost faith” in the community.

“When push came to shove, they came through for our kids,” he said.

One of those kids, 16-year-old Alexa Paolucci, said she spent several months campaigning on behalf of her younger siblings in order to make sure they would have the same education she has had at Buckeye. She said the levy is all students have been talking about, even on summer vacation.

“I kind of had a feeling that it would pass,” she said. “I think it’s going to boost Buckeye pride.”

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or jpignolet@medina-gazette.com.