September 2, 2014

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North Ridgeville voters reject school levy

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Tuesday night’s resounding defeat of a 4.9-mill, $3.5 million emergency school levy was more a referendum on the dismal economy than the school district, North Ridgeville Schools supporters said.

“People are still struggling,” Board of Education President Maria Sycz said. “It hasn’t gotten better.”

The proposed 10-year property tax increase was defeated 2,606 to 1,856, a nearly 17 percentage-point margin, according to unofficial results from the Lorain County Board of Elections.

In May, the same issue was defeated 2,321 to 1,777, an approximately 13 percentage-point margin.

Approval of the North Ridgeville levy would have cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 an additional $150 annually.

The board voted Tuesday to place the levy on the November ballot, but the economic numbers could be working against it. On the heels of the worst recession since the Great Depression, the nation is also experiencing the worst-ever recovery.

Despite record corporate profits, total U.S. economic output was 0.5 percent in the 13 quarters since the recession, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve. In the two previous worst recessions in 1973-75 and 1981-82, output was 6 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, unemployment remains sky high. Some 14.1 million Americans are unemployed, with the national unemployment rate edging up last month to 9.2 percent compared with 9.1 percent in May. In Lorain County, unemployment rose from 8.4 percent in May to 10.1 percent last month.

Sycz and new Superintendent Larry Brown said the school district has responded to the bad economy. They noted the district cut $2.2 million prior to the 2011-12 school year, resulting in 30 cuts through attrition and layoffs. While it is premature to say how many, Sycz said a November levy defeat will mean more layoffs and bigger class sizes.

“Everything’s going to affect the kids in one way or the other. That’s the hard part,” she said. “Us putting more people on unemployment doesn’t help the economy any. It’s kind of a vicious cycle.”

Brown — the former superintendent of Green Schools in Wayne County who began work Monday — thanked levy campaign volunteers who placed 750 yard signs and went door to door to drop off 3,800 brochures about the levy. While he is sympathetic to the economic plight of residents, Brown said voters need to understand that in addition to providing a good education, quality schools help attract and retain jobs in communities.

“All elections have a total effect on the community, not just the school staff and the students,” Brown said. “It has a direct result on the city of North Ridgeville.”

Black River Schools’ $7.5 million emergency levy also was defeated on Tuesday, 864 to 432, an approximately 34 percentage-point margin, according to unofficial results from the Ashland, Medina and Lorain boards of elections.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.