Getting levies approved

By our count, voters in the four East Ohio counties were asked to approve 61 tax measures during the election Tuesday. Fifty-five were approved, usually by large margins.

Voters rejected just six of the property tax proposals. Two of those, in the Buckeye Local and Indian Creek Local school districts, were for public education.

Board of education members and school administrators in the two districts may wonder what they did wrong. All around them, voters were approving tax levies for any number of different purposes, including libraries, programs for senior citizens, public recreation, emergency medical services, police protection, volunteer fire departments – even cemeteries.

Why were voters unwilling to provide more money for education?

It was close in the Indian Creek Local School District. There, a proposed 6.49-mill levy to improve school facilities was defeated by only about 3 percentage points, 3,052-2,873, according to unofficial election returns.

School officials may decide to try again. “We can go back on the ballot in May, if that’s what we hear from our folks out there,” remarked school Superintendent T.C. Chappelear.

That is the appropriate attitude. Perhaps those explaining the levy proposal need to do a better job. Perhaps they need to knock on more doors, hold more meetings, pass out more literature. Tuesday’s result was close enough to consider all that.

It was different in the Buckeye Local district, however. There, the levy proposal was trounced soundly, by more than 13 percentage points, according to the unofficial 2,176-1,667 tally.

Also different is the situation. Buckeye Local’s proposal was not for physical improvements, but for emergency operating revenue.

Superintendent Kim Leonard’s reaction, that she was “disappointed, but not surprised,” was instructive. Clearly, voters want to see more fiscal discipline exercised in the school district. That may require across-the-board spending cuts, as Leonard noted.

Buckeye Local school officials have no choice. Going back to the polls before substantive spending cuts are made should not be considered an option.

As voters throughout East Ohio demonstrated Tuesday, there is no general anti-tax sentiment afoot. Clearly, many Buckeye Local voters simply are not convinced schools are being operated as efficiently as possible. They will approve a levy only once they are convinced that has changed.