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EDUCATION Schools facing layoffs, program cuts

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Ballots contained 63 school-tax measures for Tuesday's special election.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- School districts around the state will lay off employees, cut extracurricular activities and could close some buildings after voters rejected tax increases.
Tuesday's ballot contained 63 school-tax measures, a record for a February special election. Two dozen passed, 38 went down and one measure remained too close to call Wednesday.
"The last four elections, we have had 20-year highs in the number of school issues on the ballot," said Scott Ebright, a spokesman for the Ohio School Boards Association. "If that doesn't tell people that our school funding system is broken, I don't know what does."
The proposed levy in the burgeoning Lakota Local Schools north of Cincinnati was down by fewer than three dozen votes out of more than 26,000 cast, according to unofficial tallies. Butler County Board of Elections director Robert Mosketti said 169 provisional ballots had yet to be counted.
Voters in London, west of Columbus, approved a 1-percent income tax increase that failed by one vote in the Nov. 2 election.
Officials had said without the $2.5 million the measure is expected to generate, they would have had to lay off 49 employees and cut some extracurriculars.
'No choice'
Increased costs have outpaced property tax revenue, meaning educators must cut spending or find funding elsewhere, said J.C. Benton, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education.
"Districts have no choice but to rely heavily on going to the ballot for more local revenue," Benton said.
That approach is getting old for everyone involved, said Paul Marshall, executive director of the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Financing Student Success.
"Schools get tired of putting them on the ballot and voters get tired of seeing them," Marshall said.
Seventeen of 24 northeast Ohio districts lost their issues, possibly leading to layoffs, a reduction of busing and the closing of an elementary school in both the Berkshire and Buckeye districts.