Voters in Springboro-Clearcreek Twp. rejected a sixth-straight tax levy for new money in Tuesday’s election, while their counterparts in Carlisle and Waynesville each passed two issues.
The defeat of the 4.5 mill fire levy sought by the Clearcreek Fire District could set the stage for a November election in which the same voters consider two levies.
Local leaders sometimes hold off on turning to voters for tax levies, rather than sharing ballots with other local issues. In this way, they can avoid the prospect of asking voters to choose one levy over the other.
In addition to a second try for the Clearcreek fire district levy, voters — who have rejected five consecutive levies seeking new operating money in the Springboro schools — will be asked to approve a renewal levy for the schools on Nov. 5.
Fire officials project a $2.5 million deficit by the end of next year without new funds, but others - including some who mounted an organized campaign - want trustees to dip first into more than $13 million in reserve general funds.
Failure of the Springboro school renewal would leave a $9.2 million hole in the district’s annual revenues - and no reserve fund to fall back on.
“We really don’t have much choice,” Jim Rigano, vice president of the school board, said last week. “We’re going to have to make our case. If we do, the people will respond.”
Voter support isn’t dependent upon income levels. Median household incomes in Springboro are more than $90,000 - $40,000 above those in Carlisle and about double those in Waynesville, according to the latest U.S. Census estimates.
Larry Hook lives in Springboro and works as a superintendent in Carlisle. He said the key to passage of the Carlisle levies was convincing the 20 percent of the local electorate undecided to make their decision based on facts presented to them during the campaign.
“There’s a 20 percent sway in there. You’ve got to give them enough information to make solid, sound decisions,” Hook said.
Springboro faces two-levy November
In Springboro, the school renewal would be the first levy try for a board that has cut millions from the budget, since voters rejected five consecutive levies for new operating money.
“Obviously people in our area are protective of their money. I think that’s a good thing,” Rigano said.
Unlike Clearcreek Twp. trustees, Rigano predicted the school board would unanimously vote to place a five-year levy seeking about 10 mills, on the ballot. The renewal is part of a five-year forecast the board is using to chart its fiscal future.
“When there’s a dissenting vote, it certainly causes people to pay more attention, to take a closer look,” Rigano said.
The school renewal is about maintaining about 25 percent of the existing budget.
“I hope people would consider that,” Rigano said.
In early August, the board is expected to pass resolutions verifying the millage and placing the levy on the ballot.
The vote to put the levy on the ballot could present a dilemma for Kelly Kohls, president of the Springboro school board and the anti-tax Warren County Tea Party, who has been opposed to levies by the school district and elsewhere in the region. Kohls called the fire levy “Government gone wild” in an email message sent the morning of the May 7 election.
Kohls didn’t respond to interview requests by voice and email.
The Citizens for Responsible Spending posted signs opposing the Clearcreek fire levy, sometimes right next to those advocating for the levy. But its leader, Jack Chrisman, said he will look to follow Kohls on the school levy.
“If Kelly says she needs it, we won’t be against it,” Chrisman said.
On election night, Clearcreek Fire District Chief Bob Kidd said the township would try again in November. Trustee Jason Gabbard said no decision had been made on a second try.
“We have not discussed it,” Gabbard said. “We were obviously hoping it would pass this time.”
Ed Wade, the other trustee who voted to put the levy on May ballot, could not be reached. Trustee Cathy Anspach, who voted against the May levy try, continues to advocate budget cuts to show voters the government is tightening its belt, just like homeowners facing cash-flow problems.
“They believe the fire department should have to do the same thing,” Anspach said.
Passing two levies in one election
Voters in Waynesville passed two renewals, neither expected to raise their property taxes. But Carlisle voters passed school and ambulance service levies expected to boost tax bills by $260 a year for every $100,000 in property valuation.
“It is amazing. This is a very, very conservative community,” said Hook, who worked in the Springboro school district during the string of levy defeats.
Unlike the Clearcreek fire levy, there was no organized opposition to the Carlisle school and ambulance service levies.
“I think our community believes we’re doing the right thing,” Hook said, noting budget cuts the district had made amidst rejection of past levies, including a November 2010 issue.
Noting the split in Clearcreek-Springboro, Hook said voters are swayed by such uncertainty.
Still both levies could pass in November in Springboro-Clearcreek, he said.
“There has to be an overall belief you’re doing the right thing,” he said. “If you can get that message across, you have a chance, you have a great chance.”
Tuesday’s election results
7 mill, police renewal passed 184-103
1 mill, road renewal passed 198-87
schools, new 5.9 mills passed 1,269-1,121
ambulance, new 2.61 mills passed 1,440-1,074
(also serve Franklin Twp.)
fire district, new 4.5 mills failed 2,239-1,632
Source: Warren, Montgomery county election boards