What’s next after Firelands construction levy failure? Try, try again

By Jason Hawk - jhawk@civitasmedia.com

A second stab at $37.5 million in school construction cash is expected to go before Firelands voters in March.

The first try failed earlier this month by a 57 to 43 percent margin amid a low turnout.

The Firelands board of education has already passed a resolution backing a second try at funding a new sixth grade to 12th grade building. Only with voter support can it accept a $6 million carrot from the Ohio School Construction Commission.

Now education heads are poised to officially put the 5.2-mill levy back on the spring ballot, which requires a vote at their Dec. 14 meeting.

“We feel the initial proposal is what is needed,” superintendent Mike Von Gunten said.

He said more must be done to explain to voters why South Amherst Middle School and Firelands High School are too costly to repair.

A series of community meetings are being scheduled and mailers will be sent to district residents to spread the message, he said.

Time is limited.

Von Gunten said a levy must pass by August to fund the local $31.5 million share of the project or the state with withdraw its pledge.

Firelands’ rejection at the polls this November was an anomaly.

Ohio voters approved 94 of 110 school tax issues on Election Day though most were renewals. Of the 30 new taxes districts asked for, 17 were granted.

That represented the highest levy success rate in at least 15 years, according to Ohio School Boards Association spokesman Damon Asbury.

The 85 percent passage rate on this year’s ballot was a sharp increase over the 2014 general election, when Ohio voters backed only 66 percent of school tax issues.

“I’m pleased to see this strong support for public schools,” said OSBA executive director Richard Lewis. “That shows Ohioans realize just how vital their public schools are to their communities and state. Unfortunately, school board members and administrators in districts where levies were defeated will likely be forced to make difficult budget decisions, including new rounds of cuts.”

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk