2010-11-27 / News

Lakewood levy approved by 34 votes

By Scott Rawdon


It’s official! Voters

approved Lakewood School District’s additional 9.9 mill levy by a 3,060 to 3,026 vote —a difference of 34 votes and just three votes beyond triggering a mandatory recount.

“I know why you’re all here,” Licking County Board of Elections Director Sue Penick said to a nervous group o fLakewood supporters crowded into the board’s meeting room Tuesday afternoon as board members prepared to certify the results of the Nov. 2 election. “You can all breathe easy.”

The approval spares the district from cutting $4.4 million from its budget, which would have included significant lay-offs and cancellation of virtually all extra-curricular programs.

“It’s huge for the district,” said Superintendent Jay Gault. “It’s now our responsibility to make sure we don’t have to go back to the voters anytime soon.”

It’s been a long road for the levy, which passed unofficially 2,990 votes for the levy to 2,985 against Nov. 2. However, the unofficial results did not include provisional ballots, which weren’t tallied until Tuesday and could have easily swing the final result either way, or triggered a recount if the final margin was less than one-half of one percent of the vote. Gault said he confirmed there would be no mandatory recount, although Penick said a recount can be requested.

Voters 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.

“We’re glad, really glad,” said Lakewood School Board member Forrest Cooperrider. He said he’s been on “pins and needles” since Nov. 2, concerned about the outcome. Even with the victory, he said the state may pull a significant amount of funding from the schools, so Lakewood must continue to manage its budget very tightly.

“This is a real blessing for the community,” said Licking Township Trustee Joe Hart, adding that district residents will continue to have the same quality education that people have come to expect.

“I think it’s great, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said concerned citizen Bill Gulick who’s been very active with the district and the levy. He said the district still has to reach out to the people who voted against the levy and learn why.

“Communication is the biggest thing,” said Gulick. He said Lakewood is a “bubble” school district that’s rich in assets but poor in income. “People’s got to get involved,” he said. “I’m not going to stop now that the levy’s passed.”

Levy committee chair Holly Graham said she appreciates the position voters were in as the district asked them to pass an expensive levy on the heels of one of the worst economic periods in the nation’s history. “They did save our schools,” she said.

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