November 24, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
40°F

Cloverleaf levy passes with big margin, district avoids heavy cuts

An excited crowd cheers as the fifteenth of sixteen precinct votes are added to the total Tuesday night at United Methodist Church in Seville. As of Tuesday night, the levy was passed by a vote of 3,436 to 2,658. (ANDREW DAVIS / GAZETTE)

An excited crowd cheers as the fifteenth of sixteen precinct votes are added to the total Tuesday night at United Methodist Church in Seville. As of Tuesday night, the levy was passed by a vote of 3,436 to 2,658. (ANDREW DAVIS / GAZETTE)

Dan Pompili and Andrew Davis | The Gazette

It was nearly 11 p.m. and with votes counted in all but one of Cloverleaf’s 16 precincts, there was little doubt the school district would pass its first new levy since 2006.

But school officials still wore frowns.

“We’ve been waiting for this so long, we just want to see that number,” Superintendent Daryl Kubilus said.

Rather than wait for the 100 percent results to be posted online, a school official called the Medina County Board of Elections.

That’s when the smiles came: The levy passed by nearly 800 votes, 3,436 to 2,658, according to unofficial returns.

“I’m just very thankful to Cloverleaf voters, because they stepped up to the plate and recognized the urgency of this vote,” levy campaign chairman David Rittgers said. “I’m excited for the kids, because they will continue to receive the excellent education they have now.”

In all four elections held between November 2012 and November 2013, voters rejected requests for new levies, ranging from 6.9 mills to 8.3 mills.

This time, school officials tried a new approach aimed at lessening the tax burden on homeowners with fixed incomes by asking for a smaller 3.5-mill property tax levy combined with an additional 0.75 percent earned income tax. Both taxes are for 10 years.

The 3.5-mill property tax levy will provide $1.6 million annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $122 per year, according to Medina County Auditor’s Office.

Voters seemed upbeat as they were walking out of the polls early Tuesday.

“I’m pro school all the way. It’s my property value and obviously the kids,” said Erin Siegler, of Westfield Center.

“I don’t want to see the art and music programs become dissolved. I think it’s a function of the schooling. It helps kids focus on the important things in life,” Lodi resident Steve Szymczak said.

Still others were wary about what the income tax would mean to their budgets at home.

“I have to budget my account, why can’t the school budget? Why can’t they do away with some of the things that we didn’t have when we were in school?” asked a woman who wished to go unnamed.

Programs and services that will be restored beginning with the 2014-15 school year include high school busing; half-day, every-day kindergarten; and school buildings will be reopened for use by community groups after school hours.

The state declared Cloverleaf in a fiscal emergency in 2012 and a five-member board was appointed to oversee the district’s finances. The district faces a deficit of $5.8 million by 2017 if new money is not approved.

Despite $7 million in budget reductions in the last five years, the commission ordered Cloverleaf to slash another $1 million and the Cloverleaf Board of Education warned of “draconian” cuts that would be made if the levy failed.

The cuts would have included:

• A shortened school day. Elementary school instructional time would be reduced by 1.5 hours per day. Middle school and high school instructional time would be reduced by one hour per day.

• Closing elementary school, middle school and high school libraries.

• The elimination of art, music and physical education from K-6 curriculum.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @danpomp32. Contact reporter Andrew Davis at (330) 721-4050 or adavis@medina-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @adavisreports.