Summit/Portage counties: Tale of Two Levies

7:31 PM, Nov 7, 2012   |    comments
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AKRON -- It's a tale of two levies. While some communities are celebrating, the others wonder what's next?

Akron Public Schools voters are getting a big 'thank you' Wednesday after holding up their end of the bargain.

The district's 7.9-mill levy passed in a landslide victory.

How is Superintendent David James feeling about it? "I'm just like everyone else. Everyone's tired because we have really been at this since last November," he said.

After two failed levies and $22 million in cuts, the district presented a smaller plan to compromise in the current economic environment.

Even with a yes vote, the schools still need to cut $8 million. But it's better than the $23 million shortfall they faced without the levy.

The schools will continue to look at support side and curriculum changes next year.

"We've been in churches, we've been at community events and it's basically the same message. Look we're making progress. This is what's at stake," said James. "We're not asking you to pay the entire bill. I think that resonated with our voters."

Across county lines, Field Local Schools' 5 mill levy failed for a fourth time.

"The initial reaction was devastation. We were very very hopeful this time," said Superintendent Beth Coleman. "We're going to have to dig deep and make even harder decisions than we've already had to make."

The district which serves about 2,000 students in Portage County has already cut bussing, and reduced gym, music and other classes. They also implemented pay to play sports.

Now sports could see program cuts, and all day kindergarten, a bragging right, but high ticket item, could be on the chopping block.

"Just the conversation of cutting sports, our families started to flee out of the district," said Coleman of previous talks, worried about the difficult discussions ahead.

"Obviously we're going to have to go back to the ballot, eventually we'll have to pass something," she said.

While Coleman and the Board of Education think the economy is to blame for some holdouts, the district does think their legions of volunteers and supporters are slowly changing minds, correcting misinformation and gaining trust in the community.

"On the bright side, it was much much closer this time," said Coleman. "We've had hope every single time, but I'm thinking, next time, we might be able to make it happen."

Field's Board will need to decide soon when to try the ballot again.


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