September 2, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria voters pass first of three education renewal levies

While anxious parents and school board members await poll results of Issue 31, third-grader Keira Franklin, 8, preschooler Lucas Kokai 4, and Lilah Foucher, 3, play a game of tag. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

While anxious parents and school board members await poll results of Issue 31, third-grader Keira Franklin, 8, preschooler Lucas Kokai 4, and Lilah Foucher, 3, play a game of tag. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

**Correction: A box on the front page of Wednesday’s paper incorrectly listed how much this levy with cost Elyria residents. The levy will cost owners of a $100,000 house $151 a year.

ELYRIA – The song blaring in the dining hall of Elyria High School said it all.

“Whooah, we’re half way there. Livin’ on a prayer,” played the Bon Jovi classic that Superintendent Paul Rigda thought summed up Tuesday’s victory perfectly.

The district’s 4.95-mill levy renewal passed with 5,763 votes in favor of the levy to 2,943 votes against, according to unofficial election results. It is the first of three renewals voters will see and, with its passage, Rigda could not help but lament that the district is just halfway to getting its finances stable.

Two more renewals will go before voters in May. The levy approved Tuesday brings in $4.3 million annually and costs the owner of a $100,000 home $151 a year.

“We have a great community that understands the importance of education,” he said. “They told us a year ago that they liked what we were doing, but couldn’t support new money. They told us to do our part by making cuts and they would continue to support us. Tonight, this was all about the community and the school district working together.”

There was once a time when school renewals passed with ease, but a changing economy has made even those issues a hard sell even though they do not raise taxes. Because of that, Rigda said the district never took passage for granted. It waged a full educational campaign to tout what school official have done to keep the district financially solvent.

In the past five years, the district has cut $6 million from its budget by closing multiple schools and reducing the workforce by 250 employees.

“”We have done all the hard work. Unfortunately, there have been layoffs and people have lost their jobs,” said board President Don Boddy. “To see these results shows us residents trust those decisions were the right ones to be made and necessary.”

While there was much to celebrate among teachers and staff, many of whom campaigned on behalf of the district, Boddy said no one is breathing a sigh of relief until next spring.

“Elyria Schools is moving in the right direction, but we still have to do this again next year,” he said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.