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Election results leave questions

March 8, 2012
The Herald-Star

The results of Tuesday's voting in Jefferson County leave us a little concerned today.

Based on unofficial results from the county board of elections, voters rejected three school levies. The failure of the issues concerning the Indian Creek and Edison local school districts, as well as the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School are troubling on several levels. Each levy covered a need unique to each district, but all were needed to address serious educational concerns.

Indian Creek stands to lose the most. The district was poised to receive $7.1 million from the Ohio Schools Facility Commission's Exceptional Needs Program to use toward the $22.1 cost of a new high school. The 3.5-mill portion of the 4.95-mill levy would have included $6.2 million to be used to support the school project, renovate three existing elementary schools and upgrade extracurricular facilities, and a 1.45-mill, five-year operating portion would have generated $473,000 annually and allowed the district to maintain programs, staffing levels and daily operations.

Because voters rejected Issue 6, district officials are left with the prospect of facing the same facility problems - mainly an outdated high school that was built in 1947 - along with the prospect of having to walk away from the $7.1 million in state money.

In Edison Local, voters said no to a 9.45-mill levy that would have generated approximately $3 million year that would have gone toward maintaining existing programs and preventing additional cuts and closures in the district. Residents of the district are now faced with the prospect of cuts in district programs, including the elimination of busing for high school students and pay-to-participate fees for extracurricular activities.

The joint vocational school, meanwhile, had been seeking a 1-mill operating levy that would have provided $1.1 million annually. As a result, district officials will have limited money to make needed repairs to the facility.

Those decisions leave district officials with little choice but to make yet more adjustments and to put their issues before the voters another time.

Granted, voting "yes" on Tuesday's issues would have resulted in higher taxes, a prospect few people look forward to. But, the long-term benefits would far outweigh that small additional burden.

All indicators show that our area is poised to experience economic growth generated by the shale drilling industry.

If the region is going to be able to fully benefit from that growth and attract new residents, institutions as vital as schools must be attractive to those who are coming from out of town. It's a fact: professional real estate agents agree that the quality of the schools - in terms of instruction and facilities - plays an important role when families make decisions about where they will live.

The results of Tuesday's voting will, in the long run, make it more difficult to make our area attractive to prospective residents.

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