As local voters have seen over the years, "no" isn't always the final answer when it comes to levies and other financial issues.
But at this point it's uncertain whether the Washington County Children Services board will try again after an apparent 428-vote defeat according to final, unofficial results Tuesday. And some Warren Local Schools officials have indicated the sixth attempt at funding new construction in the district will be the last for the foreseeable future.
Before a decision is made on another go-round for the 10-year, 1.46-mill Children Services levy, the board will have to see if the 742 provisional ballots and potentially 480 absentee ballots yet to be counted can change the outcome.
"It'll be hard to make up that many votes with what's left out there," said Children Services board member Jim Vuksic.
If all of those ballots were counted, at least 612 "yes" votes would be needed to reverse the decision and that slim margin would trigger an automatic recount.
At a glance
Washington County Children Services levy:
For - 13,845 (49.24 percent)
Against - 14,273 (50.76 percent)
Warren Local Schools bond issue and levy:
For - 2,848 (38.74 percent)
Against - 4,504 (61.26 percent)
Source: Washington County Board of Elections.
Even if Tuesday's results hold, a levy wouldn't be the board's first choice, Vuksic said. The important thing is to make up the $1 million the agency has lost over the last five years due to cuts at the federal, state and local levels, he said.
"If somehow funding could be put back, I'm like everyone else, I don't like levies either," Vuksic said. "We certainly won't go after another tax levy unless we believe there isn't another way out of this."
The agency, which investigates reports of child abuse and neglect and intervenes when necessary, has been operating 10 staff members and two supervisors short of capacity, yet its reserve, which sat at $1.8 million a few years ago, has shrunk to about $300,000 said Ginny McVey, levy committee chairwoman.
"And that's the only way we've been functioning," she said.
After the canvass on Nov. 19, the board will wait to see how Washington County commissioners set the budget for the upcoming year. If the need remains, they will have to discuss whether to try for the levy again. Vuksic also noted the election of one and possibly two new county commissioners could change the local funding picture in 2013. In any case, it's too early to say what cuts or changes might have to be made.
In business, companies are forced to make do with the resources they have, but Vuksic noted some of Children Services' duties are mandated by law.
"The problem here is, which child do we not respond to or respond adequately to?" he said.
The levy would have raised $1.6 million a year to supplement the agency's budget, restore an abuse and neglect prevention program and increase pay for foster families.
In the Warren Local school district, the defeat of a 3.45-mill bond issue to raise the local share of a $10.75 million project to build a new high school and a five-year permanent improvement levy to fund repairs to remaining buildings likely won't result in any immediate changes, but there will almost certainly be further cuts to the district down the road.
Superintendent Tom Gibbs said prior to Tuesday's election that should the issue fail he would have a staffing analysis of the district done to see how many teachers above the state minimums it employs. Although there are not many places left to cut, he said five more positions likely could be eliminated by cutting all-day, everyday kindergarten and most remaining electives at the high school.
One thing that apparently won't change this year is the absence of busing for high school students. Although considered by many to be a vital service, it is not mandated by state law. Although the board voted to bring the service back if this bond issue was approved, the removal of busing in 2011 remained a motivating factor for some voters opposing the latest measure.
Gibbs said after the results came in Tuesday that he didn't see recommending a seventh bond issue for new buildings to the board. On Wednesday, board President Bob Allen said he wouldn't vote to put one on the ballot.
"We will have to limp along as best we can with the current facilities, making essential repairs," he said. "In my opinion ... the voters have spoken numerous times, and they seem to be satisfied with our existing schools."
Board member Sidney Brackenridge said he doesn't know what the board's next move will be, but he doesn't believe they can count on increased support from the state when Gov. John Kasich's administration unveils a new school funding system for the next biennial budget.
"I'm sure the economy probably will be better, but I'm not sure they'll pass the money on down to the schools," he said.
Board Vice President Debbie West said whatever the next step turns out to be, it will be discussed at upcoming board meetings. She invited community members to attend and share their thoughts and recommendations.
One reason Gibbs said he is reluctant to pursue new money again is that the district has an emergency levy due for renewal in less than two years. That provides $1.75 million a year for utilities, buses, textbooks and other costs, but not salaries and benefits.
"Our expenses are already lower than any other district in the area, and one of the lowest in the state," West said. "Without question, we will have to renew our emergency levy."
Warren is not alone in Ohio when it comes to seeking additional funding - and not receiving it. While a majority of school funding issues around the state passed, just 37 percent of those seeking new money were approved by voters, according to the Ohio School Boards Association.