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Schools seek levy support across NE Ohio, from Shaker Heights to North Ridgeville

Three students each playing the cello.
Shaker Heights City School District
Shaker Heights Middle School students perform in this photo provided by the school district. Shaker Heights City School District has a combined tax levy and bond issue on the ballot this year that will fund renovations to the district's middle schools.

The Shaker Heights City School District is hoping for voter support to expand its prekindergarten education program and renovate some of its old buildings. Elsewhere in Northeast Ohio, Springfield Local School District says it needs voter support for a levy to bring back more basic things like busing for high school students.

Across Northeast Ohio this November, there are several dozen school levies and bond issues like these on the ballot. While some of those are requests to renew levies that are already in place, there are also requests for tax increases like the operating levy at Springfield and the bond issue in Shaker Heights.

Requests to hike property taxes are typically tougher asks for school districts, especially in some districts compared to others. That was true especially earlier this year when just 33% of new school tax requests were approved by voters —the lowest success rate since 2007.

Cynthia Frola, board of education president at Springfield Local School District, southeast of Akron in Summit County, said it’s tough to get local voters to support hiking taxes for the public schools. A request there for a 3.77-mill operating levy failed narrowly in the spring.

It’s been 23 years since voters have approved new money for operating the schools in that district, Frola said. The district has cut its programming significantly over the years due to no new money coming in.

Some new programming could come if the levy passes in November, Frola said, but the district has also cut elective classes and has had to charge families $300 per student to play sports. That pay-to-play cost could be cut in half if the levy passes.

“We need more computers and technology,” Frola said. “And we also will study enhancing the curriculum through the addition of more electives and some extracurricular programs that we currently can't support.”

RELATED: Tri-C says November levy is critical to training nurses, firefighters and police

There are Northeast Ohio schools that are also seeking support in the form of bond issues — tax levies that typically run for more than 30 years — to build new facilities. In North Ridgeville City School District’s case, the district hopes voters will approve a slimmed-down tax increase — 6.26 mills rather than 8.32 mills, which amounts to $219 per year per $100,000 of property valuation — to build a new high school. Its bond issue request in the spring, which would have replaced an elementary school as well, failed by just 40 votes.

North Ridgeville on its website notes the new facilities are needed because the community is growing significantly. The high school currently has 1,447 students enrolled, but the building capacity is only 900 students.

Shaker Heights City School District is seeking one of the larger overall property-tax increases in the region, with an almost 10-mill combined bond issue, operating levy and levy to help pay for new facility upkeep. Superintendent David Glasner said the district hopes to use the lion’s share of that to pay for renovating all of the district’s buildings for kindergarteners through eighth graders, most of which are 100 years old or older and lack air conditioning.

“We just don't have the technology infrastructure in our buildings to really support the kinds of technology integration that happens in modern classrooms,” he said. “Safety designs and structures is also something. Our buildings just weren't built with modern safety standards in mind.”

The levy will also help expand prekindergarten programming — which currently only serves students with disabilities — to be available for other students in the community, Glasner said.

Below are some highlights of new tax levies on the ballot at various school districts in the region. Many school districts are utilizing matching funds from the state of Ohio to pair with bond issues to help pay for new school buildings.

Curious how to calculate how much a certain levy's millage might cost you? Check out our guide on school levies.

Cuyahoga County

Bedford City School District is also seeking approval of a large bond issue at 9.9 mills, meant to fund facility improvements.

Meanwhile, Cuyahoga Heights Local School District is seeking an 8-mill levy to maintain high-quality programming, according to its website. Orange and Independence local schools are also seeking new tax levies — 1.5 mills and 3.85 mills respectively.

In Independence’s case, the district is seeking to avoid a looming deficit (it also has a levy renewal on the same ballot). In Orange’s case, it’s seeking funds to “modernize” its high school, which will be in tandem with an old bond issue expiring which will mean a net decrease in taxes overall.

Summit County

Aurora, Twinsburg and Mogadore are all asking voters to approve 5.9-mill tax levies, and all three school districts have said in online materials that they are struggling to keep up with rising costs and face operating deficits.

Mogadore is considered to be under “fiscal caution” by the state, while Springfield Schools are under “fiscal watch,” one level below a “fiscal emergency," according to The Portager.

Meanwhile, Hudson City School District is also seeking a 5.5-mill levy, which it says is needed because the district hasn’t seen any new money approved in 12 years.

Mahoning County

Canfield and Poland local schools are both seeking bond issues to build new schools. In Canfield, the district is hoping for a sweeping set of changes to its facilities, with a new prekindergarten through fourth grade school, a new middle school and renovation to Canfield High School, The Vindicator reports. Poland would be seeking a new elementary, middle and high school as well.

Lorain County

Avon Lake City School District is seeking a bond issue to build two new elementary schools, a new middle school and fund improvements at Avon Lake High School. Mapleton Local School District and Amherst Exempted Local School District are also seeking smaller tax increases, with Mapleton seeking an income tax increase and Amherst seeking a slight increase to a former levy to keep up with rising costs.

Stark County

North Canton City School District is seeking a small bond issue and accompanying tax levy to fund a new middle school and renovations to the high school.

Lake Local School District is asking voters to approve a 9.9-mill levy to help it avoid a deficit. The Canton Repository reports the district has already made $1 million in cuts recently, which included teacher salaries, with more on the way if the levy fails.

Medina County

Medina City School District is seeking a combined bond issue and operating levy, meant to pay for the construction of a new middle school and an addition to another middle school building, along with improvements to athletic stadiums and seating. It will also help the district continue to pay for things like all-day kindergarten and boosted electives and AP programming.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.