September 16, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain Schools levy fails, leaves district with ‘some very serious challenges’

LORAIN — The 6.43-mill levy for Lorain City Schools was defeated Tuesday leaving school officials disappointed and worried about the future of the district.

“These are tough times and certainly the school district has a need,” said Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson. “We are going to be faced with some very serious challenges and I think everybody’s aware of that.”

School Board Vice President Tony Dimacchia said there has been no talk of layoffs or program cuts yet and said the board will do everything it can to avoid layoffs.

“With the failure of the levy, we’ll take a look at what we’ll have to do to maintain and sustain programs we currently have and keep the administrators and educators we have who are doing an excellent job,” he said.

Dimacchia was “very disappointed” to see the levy fail 4,812 to 6,080, or 44.18 percent to 55.82 percent, according to unofficial election results.

The levy would have brought $4.6 million a year for five years into the district.

Cory Simo voted against the school levy because he didn’t think the board spent its money wisely.

“Superintendent Atkinson makes what, $250,000?” Simo said. “They had the opportunity to hire someone for $100,000. At the same time, they want to raise my property taxes $200 a year? I think the money could have been spent better.”

Still, the levy did have its supporters, like Vanessa Trovato, a mother with students in the district.

“My kids are still in school and I want them to have the best,” she said.

Lorain resident Domingo Sanchez also supported the levy.

“I went to Lorain schools and I think I’m doing OK for myself,” Sanchez said. “People voted for the schools when I was going there so I thought it would be a good thing to do the same for the kids going there now.”

Dimacchia admits times are tough but said that’s no reason not to support the schools.

“As a parent and as a taxpayer, I would never vote no for a school levy no matter where I’m at because the bottom line is it affects the kids,” he said. “We can’t cut programs and cut teachers and cut curriculum and cut administrators and run an effective school district. I believe the growth of a city is dependent upon its school district. You can’t bring new people into a city without a good, secure answer to ‘Where am I going to send my kids to school’ – especially when charter schools are popping up on every corner.”

The district is expected to be $1.65 million in the red by the end of this year.

“We will have to sit down and make some tough decisions and make some tough recommendations to the board, I’m sure,” Atkinson said. “The district will have to consider everything. With these circumstances, there are no sacred cows. We really are already very paper-thin. We’re a human resources business so we’ll have a lot of human resource considerations.”

Dimacchia said he’s worried about the future of the district.

“We have the district moving in the direction we want it to be moving and now we have another obstacle,” he said. “This levy was extremely critical to just maintaining what we had and to just keep moving forward, even if it was just an inch or so.”

Contact Alicia Castelli at 329-7144 or acastelli@chroniclet.com.