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2023 Northeast Ohio school levies ran into some headwinds

A sign supporting Issue 13 is seen in Shaker Heights.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
A sign supporting Issue 13 — a combined school levy and bond issue on the ballot this November — appears in a Shaker Heights lawn.

School districts from Shaker Heights to Canfield saw mixed results at the ballot box Tuesday when it came to bond-issue requests to increase taxes for new facilities, according to unofficial November 2023 election results.

Several levy renewals that were seen as key for schools were approved by voters Tuesday night, including at Cuyahoga Community College, which was seeking a slight increase on top of a renewal of a 10-year levy. Tri-C has said that funding is critical to its mission of access, helping it maintain the lowest tuition in Ohio and continuing to provide high-quality job training and programming for future nurses, firefighters and police.

Voters in Parma and Youngstown also approved their school districts' levy renewals.

Bond issues and new operating levy requests typically face more headwinds at the ballot box as compared to renewals of already existing school taxes. Bond issues usually run for more than 30 years and are meant to pay for the debt service on construction costs of new buildings.

A request for a new levy, replacing an old one with an increase, failed in Springfield City School District in Summit County by about 600 votes. Springfield is a district which has struggled for 23 years to get new operating money approved. That district has had to cut electives and busing routes in recent years and is the only school district in the state considered under "fiscal watch" by the Ohio Department of Education.

School districts in Aurora, Ravenna, Twinsburg and Mogadore saw mixed results with requests for new revenue from taxpayers after they said they were struggling to keep up with rising costs and faced operating deficits. Mogadore's tax levy appeared to fail by roughly 50 votes, while Aurora's and Twinsburg's levies appeared to pass by roughly 100 votes each; Ravenna's failed by a much wider margin, about 1,000 votes. Cuts will likely be coming to the school districts. Mogadore in particular is under “fiscal caution” by the state. Meanwhile, Hudson City School District voters approved a 5.5-mill levy, which the district said was needed because it hasn't seen any new money approved in 12 years.

Some of the biggest levy asks of the night, in terms of the total amount of taxes being increased in the region, came from school districts in Cuyahoga County like Shaker Heights, Bedford and Cuyahoga Heights.

Shaker Heights' combined 9.9-mill bond issue and school levy - approved by voters will fund the renovation of all of the district's district’s buildings for kindergarteners through eighth graders as well as expand prekindergarten programming throughout the city. Bedford Heights was also seeking a 9.9-mill bond issue for new facilities; voters approved that plan. Voters narrowly rejected Cuyahoga Heights' schools' 8-mill request for a new operating levy, by about 40 votes. The district said that increase was meant to keep up high-quality programming in a time of rising costs.

Elsewhere in Northeast Ohio, North Ridgeville voters passed a bond issue to fund building a new high school by about 200 votes, which was a slimmed-down proposal from last spring where the growing district had sought to build a new elementary school as well.

Voters meanwhile declined to approve bond issues in Canfield and Poland in Mahoning County meant to fund new facilities.

Here are some highlights from other Northeast Ohio counties:

Lorain County

Avon Lake City School District's bond issue to build two new elementary schools, a new middle school and fund improvements at Avon Lake High School was voted down, 6,250 votes to 5,809. Voters did approve a new tax levy for Amherst Exempted Local School District, however.

Stark County

North Canton City School District's bond issue and accompanying tax levy to fund a new middle school and renovations to the high school was narrowly approved by less than 300 votes.

Lake Local School District's request for a 9.9-mill levy to help it avoid a deficit was voted down by a similar margin. That district had already made $1 million in cuts recently, which included teacher salaries with more on the way if the levy failed according to the district.

Medina County

Medina City School District had a combined bond issue and operating levy on the ballot 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. Residents voted that down by a wide margin, 10,533 to 8,026.

Corrected: November 14, 2023 at 1:54 PM EST
This story initially reported that Twinsburg's levy failed by 50 votes. It passed by about 100 votes.
Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.