2010-11-06 / News

Lakewood levy holds slim five vote lead

slim fiveBy Scott Rawdon

HEBRON – Lakewood School District’s additional 9.9 mills levy held a tiny lead according to Tuesday night’s unofficial results, but no one’s celebrating.

“It’s not a win yet,” said Superintendent Jay Gault. The unofficial tally is 2990 votes for the levy to 2985 against. However, the unofficial results do not include provisional ballots, which won’t be tallied until Nov. 23. The provisional ballots could easily swing the final result either way, or trigger a recount if the final margin is less than one-half of one percent of the vote.

The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law’s Election Law @ Moritz describes provisional ballots: “A provisional ballot is a conditional ballot that enables an eligible voter to participate in an election when, due to an administrative error or for some other reason, their names are not listed on the voting rolls. In places that have provisional voting, the process generally works as follows: if a citizen goes to the polling place, but her name does not appear on the registration list, then she is given a “provisional ballot.” The voter is required to sign a written affirmation that she is eligible to vote in that jurisdiction before casting the provisional ballot. Election officials then determine whether that person is in fact eligible to vote under state law. If so, then the provisional ballot must be counted.”

Gault said there are 800 provisional ballots countywide. “Even the Board of Elections doesn’t know how many of those are in Lakewood,” he said. If a recount is triggered, the Board of Elections has 10 days to complete. “If everything plays out, we won’t know until Dec. 3,” said Gault. “We won’t know a thing until Nov. 23.”

Gault said Tuesday night’s results are both a disappointment and a relief. “The agony was getting to this point,” he said. “Win or lose, we know what we have to do now.” Gault said if the levy passes, life goes on, if it fails, $4.4 million in cuts will be made. “It’s completely out of everyone’s hands now,” he said, except for the Board of Elections.

Gault said there will be “a lot of sleepless nights” until the official results are known, but he doesn’t believe the district, levy committee members, volunteers, students, or parents could’ve done any more than they did to create a wider margin of victory. “This thing’s been on the ballot four times,” said Gault. All the strategies were covered.

Levy Committee Chair Holly Graham agreed. “I honestly can’t think of what else we could’ve done,” she said. Graham said the August 3 special election, where the levy lost by 82 votes, drained some of the committee’s resources, but committee members and volunteers still went door-to-door, manned phones banks, distributed flyers, and generally spread the word. “Our whole campaign was ‘every vote counts,’” she said. “This is the example.” Graham said it’s been tough to explain to the young children that even though the levy is ahead, no one will know for a while if it was successful.

“We’re kind of sitting in limbo,” said Lakewood School Board President Joe Bowman, Jr. He said he’s in a frustrating position of being forced to do nothing until the provisional ballots are counted Nov. 23. “Hopefully, the provisionals will give us some breathing room,” said Bowman. “I’ll feel better then.”

Bowman said on the plus side, he’d rather be five votes up than five votes behind. Still, the indecisive result was disappointing. “The turnout was humongous,” he said. Bowman appreciated the strong voter turnout, but was saddened to see nearly 3,000 district residents come out to vote against the levy. In the meantime, Bowman said he’ll have to be patient and wait for the provisional ballot count like everyone else. “We’ll see what happens,” he said.

If the provisional ballots defeat the levy, the district will cut $4.4 million from its budget, including a severe reduction in staff, building closures, severe transportation reduction, and elimination of extra curricular activities.

Voters also rejected the same levy last May by a 2,380 to 2,170 vote as the district sought to replace revenue lost after the state phased out the personal property tax assessed primarily on businesses. The first attempt was for an additional 8.9 mill levy that voters trounced in November 2009 by a 2,971 to 1,798 tally.

A total of five school issues were on the Licking County ballot. Granville District voters narrowly approved a 5.8 mill permanent levy for operations by an unofficial 2,724 to 2,542 tally. That 182 vote margin should be unaffected by provisional votes.

North Fork School District voters trounced an additional 6.8 mill emergency levy by a 2,199 to 1,082 vote.

Northridge School District voters declined to renew a one percent income tax for five more years by a 2,024 to 1,686 vote.

Southwest Licking School District voters approved a renewal and increase of five year emergency levy averaging 8 mills by a 4,927 to 4,487 vote.

In the only county-wide issue, voters once again rejected a new levy to operate the Licking Park District. The tiny .2 mill levy for five yeears was rejected by a 30,103 to 28,279 vote. The rejection, coupled with the District’s earlier loss of much of its allocation from the county, seriosuly threatens its continued operation.

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