August 1, 2014

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JVS looks for boost in funding with upcoming replacement levy

PITTSFIELD TWP. — Cutbacks in state funding and a desire to provide students and adults with more career offerings has convinced the Lorain County Joint Vocational School Board to go to the ballot in November to seek its first new money in a quarter century.

Voters will be asked to replace a current 0.75-mill, five-year levy with a 1.75-mill, 10-year levy, according to Superintendent John Nolan.

“We’re a large economic engine in Lorain County, and we need to expand our offerings,” Nolan said.

The JVS hopes to begin training students to work as pharmacy and veterinary technicians, as well as in the fields of biotechnology, engineering and radiology, according to Nolan.

In addition, he said the JVS wants to expand its culinary arts program, which is bursting at the seams and has space for only about 75 culinary students and about 25 hospitality students.

“For every one we take, we’re turning away three students,” Nolan said. “Our culinary program is one of the finest in the country.”

He said expanded offerings at the JVS would mesh especially well with the fledgling culinary program at the Lorain County Community College, which is building an $11 million Culinary and Convergent Digital Arts facility in the courtyard between Stocker Arts Center and the Spitzer Conference Center.

The replacement levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home — who is now paying about $20 a year — an additional $33.84 a year, according to JVS treasurer Cory Thompson.

The current levy brings in about $3.7 million a year and the replacement levy would raise about $10.2 million a year, Thompson said.

Planning for the new JVS programs has been going on for several years, and cutbacks in state funding also prompted the vocational school district to consider seeking new revenue, Nolan said.

The district will lose $550,000 a year for the next two years because the state’s elimination of the tangible personal property tax, according to Thompson.

Nolan said about 2,000 high school students and an additional 3,000 or so adults study at the JVS every year.

If the levy passes, the JVS would both renovate its current building and build to provide additional educational facilities, he said.

A survey by Burges & Burges Strategists of Cleveland showed more than 60 percent of the people questioned would likely support the levy, according to Nolan.

The ballot issue was unanimously approved by the school board at its June 30 meeting.

Voters in every school district in the county will get a chance to vote on the replacement levy, except for the Lorain City School District, which has its own vocational programs and the Vermilion Schools, which are part of another joint vocational school district.

Nolan said failure of the replacement levy in November “would put the brakes on things” and “we’d have to cut back.”

In addition to the 0.75-mill levy, the JVS is funded by a permanent 1.75 mill levy, according to Thompson.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.