WESTFIELD TWP. — For the third time in a row, voters rejected a 7.9-mill levy for Cloverleaf Schools on Tuesday.
But Superintendent Daryl Kubilus said he is encouraged that the margin of defeat has narrowed with each attempt.
“We will work diligently to get the message out, and build on the momentum we created,” Kubilus said.
Cloverleaf’s first levy try in 2011 failed by 23 percentage points. Last November it lost by only 6 percentage points.
Tuesday’s unofficial board of elections returns showed the levy fell short by little more than a single percentage point, with 2,073 votes for the tax and 2,131 votes against.
“The fact that we’ve closed the gap … is a positive sign,” Kubilus said.
Kubilus said the emergency levy will be back on the ballot in the Aug. 6 special election, along with a request to renew a five-year levy passed in 2008.
Kubilus said the district’s financial situation is bad and getting worse.
“Our budget problems aren’t going away,” he said.
In 2012, the district was placed in fiscal emergency by the state. All district financial decisions must be approved by a supervisory committee appointed by the state.
“While we’re in fiscal emergency, decisions will be made based on what’s best for the budget, not what’s best for the children, and the children deserve better than that,” Kubilus said.
District officials estimate they face a $3 million deficit next year. Last year, the district borrowed $678,000 from the state’s fiscal stabilization fund — money that must be repaid by the district.
Cloverleaf has cut $6.6 million from its budget over the last five years, including 70 staff positions, but cuts have not kept up with state funding cuts. In January, the school halted busing for high school students in the district.
Kubilus said there’s nowhere left to cut.
Cloverleaf parent Melinda Jordan said the cuts are part of the reason she supported the levy on Tuesday.
“I think they’re cutting back as much as they can,” she said. “We’ve had two children graduate with great experiences and we want to continue that.”
Don Meyer also turned out at the polls Tuesday to support the levy. He said his children are grown and no longer in the district, but he felt strongly about supporting education.
“I think kids in our district need a quality education and we need to do what we can,” he said. “These are the people who are going to be deciding our future.”
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.