April 24, 2014

Intermittent clouds

Black River passes first levy in 16 years

SULLVAN TWP. — For the first time in 16 years, voters in the Black River school district approved new operating money — barely.

Voters in Tuesday’s primary passed the 8.7-mill, five-year emergency levy by a razor-thin 52-vote margin, 1,280 to 1,228, according to unofficial results from the Medina County Board of Elections.

Kaitlyn Kish, 18, a senior, and Niki Minnich, 16, a sophomore, both on Black River High School's cheerleading squad, performed Sunday at a tailgating rally to support the 8.7-mill levy on Tuesday's ballot. Both said they wanted to see future Black River students have the same opportunities they have at the school. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

Superintendent Janice Wyckoff said the levy means the district will not have to make steep cuts next school year.

“I’ve been getting text messages and phone calls all evening from people all over the district,” she said.

The five-year levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $266.44 a year, and bring in $1.6 million in new operating funds for the district.

The roughly 120-square-mile district serves students in Medina, Lorain and Ashland counties.

The levy won in Medina County, 653 to 516 votes, and in Lorain County, 231 to 223. It failed in Ashland County, 396 to 489.

Wyckoff said the levy’s approval would prevent a list of planned cuts from taking effect, but won’t provide for much extra.

“We’re going to stay at status quo,” she said. “We didn’t go on the ballot to really add anything. If it hadn’t passed, it would be unbelievably horrible.”

If the levy had failed, there would have been no money for improvements to buildings, all Advanced Placement, industrial arts and wood courses would have been eliminated and any teacher who retires this year would not have been replaced and pay to participate would have increased from $375 to $400 per sport, all in the 2013-14 school year.

Now, some money will be set aside for building improvements, Wyckoff said.

Voters had not approved a levy providing additional operating money for the district since 1997.

School officials had even discussed cutting the school day to the state minimum of 5½ hours, limiting lunch, and cutting physical education, art and music for elementary students and reducing it for older students if levy failures had continued.

The state auditor placed the district in “fiscal caution” in 2011, the third worst category for districts in financial distress.

Since 2004, the district has cut about $5.3 million from its budget, along with 84 staff positions.

Levy campaign co-chair Melissa Sas, a district parent, said she was “ecstatic” the levy won.

“So many endless hours of work has been put in by so many people in order to pass this levy,” she said. “Black River has proven that they are a community that knows how to pull together and knows how to work together to accomplish goals.”

Sas said there were some tense incidents at the polls.

She said a handful of people in Sullivan, in Ashland County, reported being challenged by poll workers about their clothing.

One woman was wearing a Black River football shirt, and another man was asked to remove a Black River baseball cap, Sas said. Another person, she said, was wearing a shirt that said “JB Firestone Invitational 5K,” with no reference to Black River, and was asked to reverse it.

“People complied,” she said. “They thought it was a bit much, and weren’t too happy about it. They did what needed to be done to get their vote in.”

Sas also said two men were asked to take off Black River baseball caps in Huntington Township in Lorain County. Another man was told his child, who was wearing a Black River football sweatshirt, had to wait outside.

Ohio election law does not allow campaign materials within 100 feet of polling places.

“I realize you can’t wear campaigning clothes,” she said. “But I think they took it a bit far. I almost feel like they were harassing our voters.”

Sas said she has filed a verbal complaint with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office and was told someone would follow up with her.

Bonnie Manos, chairwoman of the Ashland County Board of Elections, said no one was turned away from the polls.

She said people were wearing shirts that said, “We love BR,” that had a campaign disclosure label.

She said one poll worker at a Sullivan precinct reported asking people to reverse their shirts. Manos said she did not know how many people were asked to reverse their shirts.

Manos said the poll worker said: “At no time did we refuse anyone the right to vote. Most people were cooperative and had no problem reversing the shirts.”

Lorain County election officials did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday night.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.

  • ataxpayerthatwantschange

    Black River school board sucks. They have no concern for the elderly on fixed incomes. All they want is more pay in all the employees pockets. They lied to voters ever time they open their months. Now they can blow all this money as always and keep asking for more. Go out but every student an iPad that was not need and is being miss used by students and parents. Time these jack— are removed from office. Recall is being investigated as this time and will be coming for these jurk board members. Well the elderly and people on fixed incomes are not going to stand for it. Start making real cuts now so you don’t wast this money. Get rid of dead weight, cut pay across the board, cut benefits, cut out all perks. Get started now. You all are way over paid and do not pay enough of your own benefits. Time to take cuts start paying more of your benefits. Don’t like it get the H out of district. Time is now for real changes. This board don’t want to do it. So we will remove them and put in the right people that will.

  • GoBR!

    Congrats Black River! It’s so good to see a community supporting the school system. Good schools lead to desirable communities and desirable communities mean higher property values. I hope neighboring school districts take note and move in the same direction. After all, the children going to these schools everyday will someday be the adult members taking the lead in this community, we need to give them every opportunity to be the best they can be with the best education. Ohio school systems are funded based on regulations handed down by the state. Teachers and administrators, and most importantly students, should not be punished because voters are unhappy with the decisions made at the state level. If you don’t like the way things are done, and your fixed income doesn’t allow you to be a contributing member of the growing community, then please, PLEASE, take your anger out on the legislators and not the children. It breaks my heart to hear “elderly” community members say teachers are overpaid. With the average teacher salary, when broken down by the hour, teachers make about $1.60 per student, per hour (and that’s being generous, most teachers make less). Would you even babysit a child for $1.60 per hour? Not a chance. Go teachers! And congrats again Black River!

  • TonyaMarie

    That levy should of failed until new board and new super was in place. Why should I keep paying more and more in taxes when the school grade the state gives out was lowered. So that tells me that their teachings isnt up to par. I drove through spencer, homerville and west salem recently and I was surprised by how many empty homes there was. If you want the school to survive then it needs a booster shot not a bandaid as a levy. The school needs fresh minds looking over the books and trying to find ways to improve. Maybe the state should step in and show the district where improvements need to be. It certainly isnt the sports dept nor giving kids ipads. All the school did was register 18 and 19 yrs olds to vote. Why should they care? Mom and dad will pay the new levys. The laws need to change in school funding. Like everyone pays a sales tax. So everyone has to pay not just property owners. Once again property owners get screwed by those who rent or live with mom and dad!

  • sickofpayingliers

    Teachers, administration are all over paid, over benefited, over perked and they all know it. Nut they all want more and more. The need to face reality as the real working people have had to face. Pay cuts, cuts to benefits, cuts in hours and loss of jobs. Time they all start giving up pay and benefits. Start living like the real working people. Stop rapping the tax payers!!!!

  • BRsupporter

    I am so happy that the Black River Levy passed. When i moved to this school district, it was doing well and had good ratings. I would have not moved to it otherwise! Now some ten years later, I have seen cut after cut been made, and program after program removed. My children, their friends, and this community are paying the price! It is truly unfortunate that there are people bad mouthing the district, and spouting off statements that aren’t the whole facts. Black River is already challenged by the fact that it is a small population in such a large area…the amount of programs, activities, and techonology available is already limited. With even more cuts that have taken place, it is even more limited. Good school systems make a good community. Commenters are mouthing off about how high the school taxes are in this area…..have you looked at the taxes being charged in communites 20 minutes from us? Significantly higher! Times have changed and funding has been cut and things just cost more period. Does it stink to pay higher bills? Yes. But I don’t see the same amount of passion fueled by others for writing to the editors about the rising cost of electricity, water, groceries, gas. There are some complaining about this levy who don’t hesitate about spending the amount for a year of taxes on two nights at the movie theater. Or a cell phone bill for a month. Luxuries…not necessities! Good school systems are a necessity. I do have kids in the school district, but I have always supported the school disctricts even prior to that. As for the negative commenter about cutting everything across the board….what a great solution….lets see what kind of teachers and administrators we can get that will accept low wages, minimal benefits and perks. That will help me have confidence in my school district and the children’s education….not. Congratulations to the community and the Black River School District…I know the levy doesn’t fully solve the issues but I know it will make a positive difference and I am happy to support it.

  • pirate fan all the way


  • pirate fan all the way

    GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO BLACK RIVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!WE DID IT!!!!!! AWESOME!!AWESOME!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • taxpayersickofscamingboatd

    @ BRsupporter, when we have morons running this district that year after year all they have done was blow every tax dollar because they thought they had a golden goose that would never stop laying gold eggs. Well long long ago they killed that goose from over spending time after time. They have not learned anything from past practice and are still over spending, buying iPads not needed, along with other things. Then to tell voters teachers administration have not had raises is out right lie. They have been getting raises right along. They are well over paid. Just look up what they all are paid. Public record.they need to pay more for their benefits as well. Thousands of certified staff out there that would love to take over their jobs if they don’t want to do more to help this district by paying more and taking a real cut in pay. . This board needs to go. They have taken taken from tax payers to just line pockets and wast money over and over.just like they will this money. Next year they will be pushing another levy. Read the writing on the wall. They keep saying this will do nothing to change thing. Read the article in full. Showed tax payers again!!!!

  • pirate fan all the way

    YES!!!!YES!!!!YES!!!!!Ya BR!! We finally did it!!! Congrats!!!We ROCKED THE VOTE!!! Awesome!! Go BLACK RIVER PIRATES!

  • Seth Crammer

    Have no worries, those in charge at Black River will fall like Medina’s did. Just sit back and wait!

  • Pirates

    Homes are empty because people don’t want to live in a failing district. The booster shot is putting the school back on the map as a great system and a great community. Did you read that Highland ranked in Newsweek in the top schools in the country? You won’t find lots of empty homes in that district. People want to be there because the schools are good and the community offers the support it is obligated to give per the state of Ohio. Either support you schools, move out of Ohio, or write to the people who make the laws. Voting down levies punishes the people who have no control, the students. The teachers at BR come from the same degree programs as the teachers in successful districts, it’s not that the teaching that isn’t up to par, it’s that a suffering district lacks resources.

  • Pirates

    Your comment lacks any supportive facts. Public record provides teacher salary but not level of education or years of experience. Anyone who works for 25 years and has nearly enough college coursework to have a doctorate deserves more that $34,000 a year. Unless you are a teacher, and clearly you are not, you have no concept of the hours and work that goes into it (even if you know a teacher). Of course administration and teachers are defensive, there’s nothing quite like living in a community where people say you aren’t worth your salary and you don’t deserve benefits. Move out of Ohio or contact the people who make the laws. :)

  • DEL

    Black River has had no new operating money in 16 years…go check how many school districts have done this.nHow many families are living on a 16 year old budget?nBlack River has sacrificed enough…….time to support the school system.

  • getem

    If teachers are making $1.60/hour, I guess then I make about 2 cents. If most would open their eyes to all the lies we are being told about how bad of shape this district is in you too would be furious. The levy committee and tit’s “soldiers” spread lies the whole time. Now where are they that they got the money. Let’s hear how none of the promises are going to happen. I can’t wait for the raises to come, people are going to be furious. “It’s for the kids”, ya right, keep telling yourself that. It’s to cover the tracks of the inept administration, it’s for the union to get their little brownshirts raises. It’s for the people that claim they are concerned with property values that are going to sell and move anyway. Nothing will change, nothing will be brought back, and you dolts that voted for it are going to pay for nothing for the next five years. Oh, I know the argument, but, but, things were going to get way worse. Lol. Keep telling yourself that one too. Get rid of Wyckoff, then get rid of some of those fools on the board. I can’t wait for some board members to get some courage, I can’t wait for the upcoming strike, well, unless they give the raises. Can’t wait.