PITTSFIELD TWP. - Lorain County Joint Vocational School Superintendent Glenn Faircloth has a lot riding on a permanent improvement levy on the November ballot.
The proposed 0.75-mill additional levy would generate $4.6 million annually, which would cost a homeowner of a $100,000 house about $26 per year.
Faircloth said the money would go into the school's fund to update many aspects of the facility. One of the most important uses of the levy, he said, will be remodeling and updating the labs for the 23 different programs in the school, which need more equipment and remodeling. From moving walls, replacing decades-old equipment or simply installing new instructional technology, the updates are estimated to cost more than $7 million.
"We can't prepare them for today's and tomorrow's workplace with outdated equipment," Faircloth said.
What it is: 0.75-mill additional levy
How much would it raise: $4.6 million annually
Purpose: Permanent improvements for facilities
Cost to homeowner: The owner of a $100,000 home will pay $26.25 annually.
The most vocal opponent of the levy comes from within.
After being the only vote against putting the levy on the ballot, JVS board member Ayers Ratliff organized a campaign against the levy's 0.75 millage. Ratliff spent the following months sending out letters and information about the levy, which he believes is seeking too much annually. He contends a 0.20-mill levy would suffice.
"We have to do our due diligence and try to get by and still provide quality education, we cannot ask for money that county voters cannot afford," Ratliff said.
Aside from updating the rooms and equipment in the labs, Faircloth said there is a need to deal with the building's deteriorating infrastructure. For example, nearly all of the piping needs to be replaced after decades of deterioration, according to maintenance supervisor Duane Auble.
Money from permanent improvement levies cannot be spent on operations or salaries. The money must be used for repairs and purchases of items that will last longer than five years. The school hasn't approved any additional revenue from residents through a levy like this since 1985. The board approved seeking the 0.75-mill levy May 17.
Faircloth said the levy will help put the JVS on the map as one of the leading career technical schools. The levy will allow the school to continue to adapt to the ever-
evolving industries for which the school trains students.
Ratliff, however, contends the JVS is aiming too high.
He compiled data from the Lorain County Auditor's Office about permanent improvement levies for the 14 public school districts in Lorain County - although the totals he sent out to various officials and in letters were incorrect. Still, he said compared to what the JVS is seeking annually, it is "exorbitant, excessive and amounts to a greed kind of attitude."
Faircloth said the comparison of the school with other public schools is hardly accurate. Although JVS is a school, he said it's much more than that. It runs longer during the day, well into the night, and requires much more equipment to be just as updated as textbooks. Faircloth said the school has had the same millage in decades.
"I challenge any school district to operate on the same millage they did in 1985," he said.
JVS Treasurer Cory Thompson said there are safeguards in place, too, to ensure wise use of the money. Each district must submit an annual budget to the county budget commission, Thompson said, which examines how efficiently the money is being used.
If the commission deems the amount the levy is collecting excessive, it can reduce the millage.
The Lorain County Auditor's Office said the commission has not reduced the millage of any levies in the past seven years without the recipient requesting such a reduction. Most recently, Amherst Township and Oberlin both have sought reductions on levies that were granted.
Faircloth asked voters to consider the good the school has done with preparing students, young and old, for jobs with companies in the county.
The JVS serves high school students from 13 school districts: Amherst, Avon, Avon Lake, Clearview, Columbia, Elyria, Firelands, Keystone, Midview, North Ridgeville, Oberlin, Sheffield-Sheffield Lake and Wellington.
"Either support it or do not," Faircloth said. "If our track record is bad, don't support it."