LORAIN — Now comes the hard part.
After proposing a seven-year, 4.8 mill levy Thursday that would raise about $3.12 million annually, Board of Education members now have to sell it to the public.
An owner with a home worth $80,000 — the average value of a home in the Lorain school district — would pay an additional $117 a year if the levy passes in November. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $147.
A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
With Lorain hit hard by deindustrialization that ballooned unemployment and shrunk the property tax base, the levy could be a hard sell. Voters have not approved a new levy since 1992 and rejected five since 2008.
Board member Tony Dimacchia, who voted against the levy — board members Mitchell Fallis, Jim Smith, Bill Sturgill and board President Tim Williams voted for it — said an income tax had a better chance of passage.
“Homeowners in our district have spoken time and time again,” he said, adding that he would lobby for the levy despite his misgivings.
Board members in April conditionally approved seeking a 1 percent earned income tax in a special election next month with a 2-mill drop in property taxes if the tax was approved.
An Oberlin College phone survey of about 360 residents showed substantial support for the tax. However, board members deferred to Mayor Chase Ritenauer, who thought the income tax would’ve hurt chances of voters approving the 0.5 percent income tax hike his administration is seeking.
Stung by competition from charter schools, open enrollment and federal and state tax cuts, the school district faced a projected $12 million deficit for the upcoming school year. Board members cut about $7.4 million from the deficit, and made 182 layoffs, but the district is expected to become insolvent in April, triggering a state takeover even if the levy passes. A takeover by a state-appointed panel could mean harsher cuts.
“We are in a financial crisis in this school district and if we had one parent for every student in our schools go out and vote yes for the levy we would pass with flying colors,” Dimacchia said. “The parents of our students need to get out and vote. They don’t go vote.”
In other business:
- Williams said Sandusky Schools Superintendent Tom Tucker will likely be named the new Lorain Schools superintendent next week. An illness in the Tucker family has delayed approval of his contract.
- E. Jean Wrice, Lorain NAACP president, criticized the composition of the superintendent search committee and said her organization wasn’t given enough input in the search. “Are you trying to alienate us? Are you trying to make us angry? I hope not, because we have a levy that we want to pass,” Wrice told board members. Wrice and Rhoda Lee, the group’s education chairwoman, said they were concerned that the dropout rate for black students was too high and asked board members to provide them with dropout statistics. Both said the district needs more black administrators and guidance counselors.
- Smith reminded parents that bus passes for Lorain High School students go on sale at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the First Student Inc., bus depot at 1800 Colorado Ave. in Lorain. First Student, a private school bus company, is offering busing to and from school for $20 per student for the 2012-13 school year, which begins next month. The company hopes to accommodate up to 300 students, but space is limited and applications will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. High school busing was eliminated last month, saving $240,000.
- Jane Hawks, assistant superintendent for student services, reminded parents that the deadline for interdistrict transfers is Aug. 15. Parents seeking to have their children attend a school outside their neighborhood will be accommodated if there is enough room at the school.
- Smith said groundbreaking for construction of the $73 million Lorain High School has been tentatively set for Sept. 16. An online auction of items from the old high school at www.publicsurplus.com runs through Aug. 5.
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or email@example.com.