Caldwell schools’ levy approved

The moods were very different Tuesday night among officials for the Caldwell Exempted Village and Switzerland of Ohio Local school districts.

The 2013-14 school years promise to be as well.

Voters in the Caldwell district approved a 19-mill continuing levy intended to prevent the majority of a planned $920,000 in budget cuts, while Switzerland of Ohio’s 6.44-mill emergency levy failed by less than 200 votes. That means that district will move forward with approximately $2.5 million in previously approved cuts.

Tuesday’s special election was the last chance for both districts to raise additional money before the 2013-14 school year, when they would have been required by the state to eliminate projected shortfalls through steep budget reductions.

“I just was completely shocked,” said Abby Crock, president of the Caldwell Exempted Village Board of Education. “I thought we would pass by the skin of our teeth. I’m so proud of this community.”

Caldwell’s levy will raise approximately $840,000 a year, which means there are still cuts to be made when the board meets on May 16. But they will be smaller than the elimination of 15 positions planned to make up the $920,743 needed to balance the budget without the levy.

“This was not a luxury levy … but we will be able to maintain the quality of education we’ve been providing,” Crock said.

The levy replaces an existing 12-mill levy set to expire in January and adds 7 mills on top of that. There is no expiration date on the new levy.

Crock pledged the board will be good stewards of the money the community voted to provide.

“We will safeguard every penny of this money,” she said.

Caldwell resident Michelle Woodford, 41, said she wasn’t keen on the idea of seeing her taxes go up but felt the levy was needed.

“I think it’s probably too much money, but I have two kids in school so I voted for it,” she said.

Meanwhile, the rejection of Switzerland’s levy by a 2,419-2,239 vote means the reduction of about 40 positions and that plans to hire school resource officers to increase safety at buildings won’t happen, said Superintendent Larry Elliott.

“The voters of the district have given the school system direction now,” he said. “We will live within our budget.”

Beginning with the upcoming school year, all elementary physical education, elementary music, home economics/consumer science and elementary and high school shop positions will be eliminated, along with 23 other jobs. The bus garage at River High School will close, resulting in the loss of a bus mechanic position. In addition, sports teams that can’t be 100 percent self-supporting will not take the field.

“Some people will be shocked, but that’s what’s going to happen,” Elliott said.

Although it will be too late to keep the cuts from being enacted, Elliott said he hopes to see the board put another levy before voters in the not-too-distant future.

“It will be my recommendation to go back and ask the voters to fund the curriculum … and help with the extracurricular activities,” he said.

It was not immediately known Tuesday night how many provisional ballots remained to be counted in the Switzerland district or if there were enough to potentially affect the outcome of the race. The canvass in Monroe County, where the bulk of the district is located, is scheduled for May 21.