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The Suburbanite
  • Coventry Schools goes back to drawing board after levy failure

  • In the days leading up to the Feb. 5 special election for Coventry Local Schools, where voters decided on a 4.9 mill, 34-year-bond and 1.1 mill continuing permanent improvement levy, district Treasurer Aaron Butts indicated there were few “Plan B” options if Issue 1 were defeated.

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  • In the days leading up to the Feb. 5 special election for Coventry Local Schools, where voters decided on a 4.9 mill, 34-year-bond and 1.1 mill continuing permanent improvement levy, district Treasurer Aaron Butts indicated there were few “Plan B” options if Issue 1 were defeated.
    “We haven’t decided what we will do if it fails,” Butts said at the time, noting that the state is expected to take the Ohio School Facilities Commission funding off the table if local dollars cannot be generated by this spring. “We have to have it pass. If not, there are a lot of other issues that could enter in, such as Fiscal Emergency.”
    With a 27-percent voter turnout Feb. 5, Issue 1 was defeated by a 58-to-41-percent margin - 1,402 votes to 1,010 votes — based on final unofficial results from the Summit County Board of Elections.
    At its regular meeting Feb. 6, the school board scheduled a special meeting for Feb. 13.
    Superintendent Russell Chaboudy said both of the election result percentages are disappointing.
    “We focused our message around our parents, educating them and getting them into the buildings and encouraging them to get out and vote,” Chaboudy said of the district’s campaign efforts to pass the combined bond/levy. “But they didn’t come out.”
    If passed, the bond/permanent improvement levy would have generated $28 million in local dollars, along with leveraging an additional $11 million in state funding, through the Ohio School Facilities Commission.
    The district’s plan called for using the locally generated dollars to make roof, window and flooring repairs to Coventry High School and Middle School.
    Other planned renovations included an upgrade of the security systems at the buildings, as well as renovating part of the middle school administration area into additional classroom space.
    “The plan is to make the current high school building into a K-5 building, the middle school remaining a middle school - 6th through 8th grades - and constructing a new high school on the footprint of the Erwine building,” Butts said prior to the special election. “We also plan to eventually close Turkeyfoot Elementary (at 530 W. Turkeyfoot Road), but it is still up in the air whether we would sell that building or use it in some way.”
    Butts said the permanent improvement portion of the bond/levy request would also allow the district to pay down debt on three state-funded facilities improvement projects in 2011. He said that, thus far, debt payments have been made out of the district’s general operating fund.
    The same bond/levy request was rejected by voters Aug. 7 by a 150-vote margin. In November, voters supported the renewal of the district’s 9.9-mill operating levy.
    Back on the ballot — for now
    With the filing deadline for the May 7 primary ballot Feb. 6 at 4 p.m., the school board had already placed the bond/levy issue back on the ballot, in the event it failed Feb. 5. School board president Dave Andrews explained that the board has until 90 days prior to May 7 to remove the issue from the ballot, should the board choose to do so.
    Page 2 of 2 - Andrews said he was not certain if the district would be allowed to place an amended version of the issue on the ballot, and Summit County Board of Elections officials were not available for comment by deadline.
    “It’s not unusual for any type of money issue to go before voters more than once, but you have to at some point analyze the results,” Andrews said. “And when you look at these (most recent) numbers, you have to seriously consider some things. The turnout was poor and the percentage against the issue was extremely disappointing.”
    Like Chaboudy, Andrews said that given the district’s campaign efforts — specifically targeting parents in the district — it was equally disappointing to see turnout less than “what we had hoped for and expected.”
    “Our thought was, and still is, that this issue — building and renovating schools — is something you do for the kids,” he said. “But it is pretty clear that those who are voting are against it.”
    In addition to the aforementioned parent-voter turnout, Chaboudy said that, in his view, there were two primary contributing factors leading to the election result.
    “Our state school board representative Bryan Williams, who is a paid lobbyist for business interests, came out against it,” Chaboudy said. “And there was a small group of negative voters who put out a lot of false information — and of course did it anonymously — that really violated a lot of election laws.”
    Chaboudy said that, beyond the board’s decision on whether to keep the issue on the May ballot, the district will be looking into those alleged elections law violations as well.
    “We have identified a couple people who put out signs (against Issue 1) with no disclaimer — a clear violation of Ohio election law,” he said. “We will be pursuing that issue with the Ohio Elections Board and hopefully will be resolving it. People need to know you can’t just put information out there without a disclaimer.”
    Coventry Local Schools will hold a special meeting Feb. 13. at 5 p.m. in Chaboudy’s office at 3257 Cormany Road.