Southwest Licking Schools says operational levy must pass or district cuts will happen


PATASKALA, Ohio - Last November, 10TV talked with parents and the Southwest Licking Schools District about a proposed substitute operational levy.

Long story short, it failed.

By 95 votes, the levy failed. The district is hopeful next month's outcome is different.

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"I hope so," Treasurer Richard Jones said. "I hope the awareness is out there."

It's a permanent substitution that will bring in more than $4.5 million to the district every year, or about 10 percent of the general fund revenue. It's the same rate that was passed in 2010 and renewed in 2015, but would include any new development for additional revenue for a growing district, which has jumped 11 percent or about 500 students in 10 years.

The biggest concern Jones hears is making the levy permanent.

"We know we're always going to need this money," he said. "It's 10 percent of our budget."

"As a parent, I'm concerned about what's going to be available for my children," Jennifer Hickman said.

Hickman is a mother of two students in the district. She's worried for them and all the students in the district because she's also a substitute teacher.

"[Students] need art," she said. "They need music. They need gym."

If the levy fails in March, the district has options. It could hope for the best in the November election, or it could make cuts for the beginning fo the 2020 school year. If it doesn't pass in November, the district will lose about $2.2 million from July of 2020 to June of 2021.

The question now: Has the district done enough in the last three months to sway enough votes for the levy to pass?

"A lot of people have their opinions and that's not going to change," Hickman said.

Some people on social media have voiced their displeasure with the levy. One person saying "This has to stop. I've had enough of this school district constantly taxing us to death."

The district and Hickman say it's a constant battle of misinformation and people thinking this levy will raise taxes. Still, they're hopeful the votes will lean their way.

"Because I think there are more 'yes' votes out there than there are 'no' votes," Hickman said. "They just got to vote."

Without the levy, Hickman says the district's two new schools that are set to open next fall, are pointless.

"If we can't run our schools, if we can't provide all the resources that the kids need and that the teachers need, then we've really failed our kids."

Jones says the board still hasn't made decisions on what those cuts could look like if it comes to that. He also says if the levy fails in November, the district would have to up the millage rate proposal on tax payers come March of 2021 to get the same amount of money they are currently asking for. Jones also says the state would no longer pay its 12.5 percent of homestead reduction it currently pays on behalf of tax payers.

Even if a measure is passed in March of 2021, Jones says the district could not touch that money until 2022.