December 21, 2014

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Voters reject Keystone Schools levy

Committee volunteer Brad Copley and Treasurer Don Griswold watch election results for the Keystone Schools levy on Tuesday at The Depot in LaGrange. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

Committee volunteer Brad Copley and Treasurer Don Griswold watch election results for the Keystone Schools levy on Tuesday at The Depot in LaGrange. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

LAGRANGE – Despite his best efforts, including making a bet to run 60 miles if the Keystone Schools levy passed, Superintendent Jay Arbaugh will have to find another way to finance the district’s operating expenses.

Keystone’s five-year, 5.95-mill levy was turned down by voters Tuesday night with just 749 voters – or 40 percent of voters – voting for the levy, according to unofficial returns.

The levy promised to bring in an additional $1,422,658 annually for the district, with the money paying for wireless technology, dual enrollment and advanced placement classes at the high school, among other programs.

Arbaugh said the district may be looking at cutbacks without the extra money coming in from the levy.

“At the next meeting, the board will be approving a reduction plan of a half million dollars, and that will be the start of dealing with our budget issues,” he said after news of the levy failure.

The district hasn’t passed an operating levy in more than 20 years, according to Arbaugh. He said despite being fiscally responsible – and having the lowest taxes of any district in the county – residents still turned down a levy, and he’s not sure why.

“The bottom line is, we haven’t passed an operating millage in 20 years,” he said. “You can’t get blood from a turnip. Something’s gotta give.”

Keystone’s levy asked a homeowner of a $100,000 home to pay an additional $17.35 per month. The additional money was needed due to a substantial loss in state funding over the years, he has said.

At a levy meeting late last year, Treasurer Susan Bement said the district received $2.6 million in state funding, down from the $6.9 million that was received in 2009. In addition, Bement said the district will not see an increase in state revenue during the next two years.

Keystone and Olmsted Falls were the only Lorain County school districts not to pass a levy on Tuesday, but they were the only new money issues on the ballot. Elyria, Wellington, and Sheffield/Sheffield Lake schools saw their renewal issues all pass.

Olmsted Falls’ 30-year, 1.8-mills levy was to fund an addition to the high school, needed for the growing student population.

Arbaugh said he was unsure if Keystone would try to put another levy on the ballot.

“We’re a little disappointed,” he said.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.