Buckeye Local schools hope to pass levy

T-L Photo/DYLAN MCKENZIE A series of letters spells out “Team Buckeye” in the windows of Buckeye South Elementary School.

DILLONVALE — A local school district hopes to pass a levy that would help to repair aging school buildings.

The resolution to place an emergency operating levy on the ballot for May 2 came about at a January meeting of the Buckeye Local Board of Education. The resolution was to ” levy a tax in excess of the 10-mill limitation to raise the amount of $1.9 million for each year that said levy is in effect, for a period of 10 years.”

The 4.8-mill additional levy would tax property owners 48 cents annually for each $100 of property valuation for a period of 10 years.

School officials held a special meeting in February to discuss the levy and formed “Team Buckeye,” a 22 member committee of both school officials and members of the public who are interested in seeing the levy pass. To raise awareness for the levy, members of the committee attended local council meetings in the district’s various communities to help gain support from local officials.

According to information provided by Team Buckeye, the school distinct has lost funding due to declining enrollment in the schools, beginning in 1991 and continuing to this day. In 1991, there were 3,058 students enrolled in the district; in 2017, 1,803 are enrolled. If the levy does not pass, committee members said the district may be forced to reduce its spending to save money. Those cost-cutting measures could include elimination of staff positions, increased class sizes, wage freezes and a designation from the state as a district under “fiscal concern/watch.”

The funds that would be generated if the levy is approved would be used for any operating expenses and emergency situations, such as structural issues, and to upgrade buildings. One of the main goals of the levy is to help maintain all of the current buildings in the district, some of which have not been upgraded in more than 70 years. The newest building used by the district is Buckeye Local High School, which is 27 years old and in need of several updates including electrical work, new window panes, a dome, exhaust fans in the gymnasium, interior door locks, asphalt work and outside lighting and poles, in addition to other repairs and improvements. The funding generated by the levy would go a long way toward bringing all of the schools in the district into the modern age, which officials said would benefit students, teachers and everyone else who attends or works in Buckeye Local.

“Maintaining old buildings is very expensive,” said Angela Hicks, director of federal programs for Buckeye Local. “They have higher electric costs, higher heating costs in general.”

Hicks said that she, along with Buckeye Local Superintendent Scott Celestin and several committee members, attended more than 30 local village and township meetings in the communities surrounding Buckeye Local, trying to gather support and enthusiasm for the levy. She said that compared to the two levies the district has attempted to pass in previous years, the feedback for this one is “very positive,” adding that almost all of the bodies they visited endorsed the levy.

“I have a good feeling about it,”Hicks said and encouraged community members to get out and vote on Tuesday. She also thanked everyone who helped work to get the levy passed.

For more information on the levy, call Hicks at 740-769-7395 or look for Team Buckeye Levy on Facebook and Twitter.