Tuesday, June 25, 2019 Elyria 66°


ENDORSEMENT: Yes on Issue 6


Whether to renew a 4.95-mill levy for Elyria Schools shouldn't be a hard call for voters.

The district needs the money, and renewing the levy, which has been on the books since 1999, wouldn't increase taxes.

"Since 1999 our costs have not gone down," Treasurer Joy Clickenger told us.

Clickinger said that the levy was an important piece of the district's overall general operating budget of about $85 million per year.

Should it be approved, this year's levy would continue to generate more than $3.6 million annually at a cost of $129.89 per year for the owner of a home valued at $100,000.

If voters were to reject the levy, the district would have additional opportunities to pass it before it expires at the end of 2019, but we don't see a reason to delay and put the district in a place where it even has to consider the cuts that might be needed to balance its budget.

Such cuts, were they to become necessary, would hurt the nearly 6,300 students who attend Elyria Schools.

Roughly half of the district's funding comes from various continuing or renewable levies. The next levy set to expire and need renewal is 15.9 mills and generates about $12.8 million a year. It will be up for renewal in 2024, district spokeswoman Amy Higgins said.

The district took a bit of a hit in public perception earlier this year when it considered scrapping a plan for five new schools to serve preschool through eighth grade students in favor of three schools that would have left the city's south side without a building to call its own. Fortunately, the district reversed course, revised the plan and is once again moving forward with a five-school project.

Superintendent Tom Jama told us that the district worked hard to communicate with residents to address their concerns and that he didn't believe the issue would have an impact on support for the levy.

"I do believe the community is in full support of us," he said.

Some also might be tempted to vote against the levy because the district received an overall D grade on its most recent state report card, but Jama insisted that despite the grade the district was moving forward and that there were a lot of services that it provided which weren't measured in the annual state assessment.

"It's simply, simply amazing what we're seeing with our students," Jama said.

Even if voters are upset with the district's grade, it's hard to see how cutting funding would improve things. In all likelihood, cuts would only make problems worse and further hamper the district's efforts at improvement.

The district did have the bad luck to be assigned

Issue 6 on the ballot for its renewal levy, which is the same number the city of Elyria used on a temporary 0.5 percent income tax increase two years ago. That money was designated for city road projects and other expenses.

The city has a separate 0.5 percent income tax renewal for operations on the ballot, designated as Issue 25, which could further the confusion.

The school district is very much aware of the confusion that could result and is concerned enough that its literature makes clear that the city issues are totally separate from the levy funds the district seeks to maintain.

"It's not Issue 6 of the past, and it's not city funds at all," Higgins said.

The district is right to take steps to differentiate its issues from city issues. The matter at hand is whether voters should renew a longtime operating levy for Elyria Schools.

For the sake of Elyria students, we believe they should, and we encourage voters to support Issue 6.

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