West Clermont, Milford school levies rejected

Levies and bond issues met with mixed results this election, with several prominent attempts to find additional funds voted down by Clermont County citizens.

Leading the list of failed attempts were a bond issue attempt by West Clermont Schools and an operating levy in Milford Schools. The 5.6 mill levy for Milford Schools lost 9,006 to 8,019, which Valerie Miller, Communications Coordinator for Milford Schools, said will result in serious cuts and changes the way the district is operating.

“It’s very disheartening, a tough defeat,” said Miller. “It was another strong effort by supporters and people involved with the campaign who tried to share information with voters about the importance of this levy and what it would do for this district and the community. By 1,000 votes, the community said that 5.6 mills was either too much, or that they aren’t willing to support it. The district will have to follow through with their planning and finalize the cuts that will now have to take place because of the failure.”

Milford has already undergone a series of cuts in personnel, services and programs. Now, said Miller, the students will be faced with a new challenge – getting to school.

“Most immediately, there will be an impact on transportation in January,” said Miller. “That will impact not only the students and families who now have to find a way to get their kids to school, but also the entire community who will now deal with increased traffic because of all those additional cars on the road.”

And traffic may increase in more ways than one. Next school year, due to the cuts, the neighborhood schools program will be replaced with grade level schools. This means that, whereas students currently go to a single school for their entire elementary career, they will soon be forced to attend a different school every two years.

“Next school year, the district will change from neighborhood schools to grade level buildings, which is a significant change,” said Miller. “Instead of having schools where kids go from kindergarten through grade six, now they will attend a new building every two years. For families with kids in a variety of grades, that will be a difficult scheduling nightmare. They will have to worry about getting their kids to different schools and attend functions in different buildings, instead of everything being in their neighborhood schools.”

Miller said that the school board will definitely revisit the levy, but no specifics are yet known. The board, she said, is also appreciative of the support they’ve received.

“Just because the community voted this down doesn’t mean that it ends the district’s need for more revenue,” said Miller. “The district will have to come back again, but when is not decided, nor how much. It was important that this pass in November, because the additional tax dollars would start in January, but now the district will have to wait a whole year for any additional tax dollars to be collected. The district will have to make additional cuts, the same millage would not generate the same money, because the whole year of tax collection is lost. The millage may have to go up significantly, or stay smaller with additional cuts.”

In West Clermont, in comparison, the district was hoping voters would support a bond issue attempt to build four new elementary schools, but the vote turned out a defeat by a razor thin margin.

“We’re surprised it failed,” said Planicka. “We thought we did everything possible to educate voters and get people out to vote. We’re shocked that it failed, and that it failed by such a slim margin. Everyone was asking if there would be a recount, it’s almost a state of disbelief. People are shocked at this. It’s also disappointing for the kids. This is the second time we’ve tried to convey to the community that the kids really need these buildings. It’s not getting through, no matter how we try.”

In all, 10,037 votes were cast against the bond issue, where 9,953 were cast in favor. The results may change when the election results are made official next week, but by then, Planicka said that the board may have already began discussions on placing a new bond issue before voters.

Voters, however, did support other levy issues, such as a county issue for the Mental Health and Recovery Board that passed with 34,160 votes to 28,647. A Wayne Township vote to support a levy for their new police department was defeated nearly two to one, with 981 votes against and 505 for, while a levy to provide additional Clermont County Sheriff’s Deputies to patrol Batavia Township passed with 2,525 votes for and 2,417 against.