August 21, 2014

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New money will help Avon Lake Schools offset hit from state, impending Genon closure

AVON LAKE — Avon Lake Schools Superintendent Robert Scott was talking with a reporter Tuesday night about the very slim lead an 8.28-mill, 10-year emergency levy had when the crowd of supporters gathered at Buffalo Wild Wings on Walker Road erupted.

Allan Fraser, co-chair of the Avon Lake Schools levy committee, jumps to his feet as he announces to levy supporters that voters had passed Issue 10 at Buffalo Wild Wings in Avon Lake. (CT photo by Anna Norris.)

The shouting and cheers told the story: The levy passed 3,192 to 2,928, or 52 percent to 48 percent, according to unofficial results from the county Board of Elections.

Scott said he and other school officials knew it was going to be tough to convince voters to approve the tax hike, which they said was desperately needed to offset the loss of state funds. Voters rejected an even-larger levy in November.

But the prospect of seeing $4.5 million cut from the school budget — cuts that would have eliminated art, music and physical education classes in all grades, increase class sizes and reduce textbook purchasing — tilted the vote.

The levy will generate $6.5 million annually for a decade and cost $253.58 a year in added taxes for the owners of homes worth $100,000.

Scott had been saying that the levy was passing by a mere 30 votes when the online results were updated and victory was assured.

“It was a great effort by everyone, including the (levy) committee, but we have to say a special thank you to the community and assure them we are going to do a great job with the dollars we will get,” Scott said.

Even with passage of the levy, the school district won’t be able to bring back any programs or restore any personnel before next school year.

“Because of where the levy was (the primary ballot), we told everybody we can’t bring back anything back in the fall because we’ll get no new dollars until Jan. 1,” he said.

Scott said some voices in the community who were opposed to the levy alleged the schools wouldn’t be prudent with the money. Scott said that isn’t the case.

“This was about a loss of revenue. We’ve taken care of money before and we plan to be very cautious where we spend money again,’’ Scott said. “We have to make sure that support from the community is justified.”

Realizing the amount of new taxes is substantial, Scott said residents realized “what a big part schools are of the community.”

“We knew it was a lot of money,” Scott said.

Avon Lake Schools have seen the loss of approximately $7 million in tax payments as a result of reductions in residential and business property valuations. Roughly half of that sum was directly attributed to devaluation of the Genon plant, which is slated to close in 2015.

Issue 10

  • What it is: An 8.28-mill emergency operating levy for Avon Lake Schools.
  • Duration: 10 years.
  • How much it raises: $6.5 million annually.
  • Purpose: For operational costs.
  • What will it cost: The owner of a $100,000 home will pay $253.58
  • per year.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.