2010-05-15 / News

Lakewood levy to return to ballot in August

By Scott Rawdon

HEBRON – Lakewood School Board members agreed a 9.9 mills Lakewood School District levy has the best chance of passing on the August special election ballot, even though the district has never passed a levy during a special election.

Still stinging from a very narrow defeat, 2,352-2,136, a margin of just 216 votes from the May 4 election, school board members wanted to take advantage of momentum gained after the Nov. 2009 election, when an 8.9 mills levy fell 1,798 votes in favor to 2,972 votes against – a 10 percent wider margin than the May 4 vote.

“Where do we go from here,” Superintendent Jay Gault asked board members during a special meeting Monday morning. “We got destroyed in the absentee votes.” Unofficial election results show those who voted May 4 approved the levy, but there were enough negative absentee ballots to defeat it.

According to the Licking County Board of Elections, those at the voting booths voted 1761 for the levy and 1737 against. But absentee voters voted 375 for the levy and 615 against.

Gault said the district has two opportunities to pass a levy in 2010 – a special August election or the general election in November. He said he wasn’t sure how much the Licking County Board of Elections charges for a special election, but an anonymous donor pledged $10,000 to help cover the cost.

“I don’t think we have any choice,” said Board President Joe Bowman, Jr.

Consultant Jill Campen said she was concerned that a Lakewood levy has never passed in a special election.

Bowman still thought the levy would have a better chance for success in August. He said he understood the concerns about paying for a special election, but “we need to replace revenue. I do think we have a good momentum going.” However, Bowman said that now is not the time to sugar coat anything related to the district. The time to be “politically correct” has passed, he said.

Campen said the anonymous donation toward the special election shows community support.

“We’re close (to passing a levy),” said Bowman. He said the board and district learned some good things following the levy defeat. “We’ve made huge strides in our communication,” said Bowman. “If we back off now, there’s no way we’ll pass a levy.”

Gault was clear that if a levy doesn’t pass in 2010, “all extracurricular activities are gone.” He questioned continuing to “pump money” into extra-curricular activities this autumn if the August vote fails.

Board member Trisha Good asked for a breakdown of how much extra-curricular activities cost.

“Extra-curricular activities are the least expensive benefits to students,” said Bowman. He said the district should consider cutting positions to make ends meet.

Gault said the district must cut $4.4 million from its budget if a levy doesn’t pass this year. He said the process would be similar to a recent community effort to cut $1 million from the budget, but this time it would obviously take much more work. He said “pay to play” is always an option for extra-curricular activities, but he is concerned they may become prohibitively expensive for most students.

Bowman said it’s imperative that the board communicates with the district’s voters, parents, and students in every way possible to discuss the levy and its importance. He asked each levy committee member to draft another person to help. Twice as many members mean twice as much contact with the district’s voters, said Bowman.

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