The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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November 2, 2010

Strike 3 for Ashtabula schools; additional levy fails but renewal passes

JEFFERSON — It’s strike three for Ashtabula Area City Schools as its third attempt to pass an additional 4.9-mills current expense levy failed at the polls Tuesday.

The votes were 3,092 or 40 percent for the levy and 4,600 or 60 percent against it, according to the unofficial results from the Ashtabula County Board of Elections.

Superintendent Joseph Donatone said throughout the campaign that the district needs this money to operate and he can’t cut any more. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The levy would have generated money to cover operating expenses for the district, including utilities, transportation costs, maintenance, school and custodial supplies, employee wages and benefits, services for special needs students, insurance costs, extracurricular equipment and supplies, teacher professional development and many other operations-related expenses, he said.

 It would have cost the owner of a $50,000 home about $75 per year, Donatone said.

The school board already has voted to implement a $1.4 million expenditure-reduction plan in the district.

The reduction includes the elimination of more than 50 staff positions, both curricular and extracurricular; the elimination of field trips, except music and athletics, funded by the general fund; the elimination of professional in-service and travel funded by the general fund, and the reduction of all building and department budgets.

 The levy was another attempt by school officials to balance expenditures with revenue.

 Voters were more generous with the school board’s request to renew an existing permanent improvement levy, passing the levy 4,335 votes or 56 percent, to 3,354 or 44 percent, according to the unofficial results.

 Maybe that’s because they saw a bit of relief, as the levy was reduced from a five-year, 3-mill levy to a 2.5-mill levy that will raise about $1 million for the school district, assuming the tax valuation remains constant throughout the life of the levy, Donatone has said.

 The levy funds the care and maintenance of buildings in the school district, school officials said.

 Elsewhere in the county:

n Voters in the Pymatuning Valley Local School District approved the passage of a 5.0-mill renewal levy.

According to the unofficial results of the Ashtabula County Board of Elections 1,588 approved the levy, while 1,291 voted against the levy.

The passage of the levy will be used for general operating costs, which includes electricity, heating, water, sewer, insurance, transportation, textbooks, repairs, special education and maintenance, said Alex Geordan, superintendent.

n Ashtabula County voters approved the Ashtabula County Board of Developmental Disabilities 1.33-mill renewal levy.

 According to the unofficial results of the Ashtabula County Board of Elections 18,575 voted for the levy, while 11,207 voted against.

The levy is for the current operating expenses of the board, which includes Happy Hearts School, Ash/Craft Industries, Early Intervention program, pre-school services, adult services, community employment, adult day care services, community support services, transportation services and investigative support services. 

The levy is over seven years (2010 - 2016) and will generate about $2 million per year for the next seven years, said Anne Zeitler, superintendent.

The board serves about 500 individuals.

n Voters spoke with a resounding no against the Grand Valley Local Schools 5-year renewable 4.9-mill additional levy for operating expenses.

 According to the unofficial results of the Ashtabula County Board of Elections 1,092 approved the additional tax, while 1,629 voted against the tax.

The 4.9-mills would have generated $825,000 for the district and was to be used for operating expenses.

The levy was needed to maintain the programs and services for Grand Valley’s 1,400 students, according to www.supportgv.com.

n Voters in the Buckeye Local District rewnewed a 1.9-mill permanent improvement levy by a 2:1 margin.

The unofficial results were 2,484 votes for the levy and 1,278 against it.

The levy, which will not incease taxes, is for five years and will generate $460,000 annually. The amount generated is lower than what it was in the past five years, $550,000, because the Pierpont valuations are no longer part of the district.

The money can be used only for building repairs/improvements, bus purchases/leases and purchase other items that last at least five years.

Staff writers Ellen Kolman and Carl Feather contributed to this story.

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