School districts can now decide whether to put a levy request on the ballot for security issues. Voters will decide if the levies pass.
It’s good news for area school districts.
For the taxpayer? Well, that’s totally up to them.
Ohio schools are allowed to go to voters with levy requests that would provide money exclusively for school safety and security purposes.
“This bill is in response to the tragedy in Chardon,” said state Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, a co-signer of Senate Bill 42, which became law with the recently signed state budget. “The legislature wanted to do what they could to provide local school districts a tool to secure their buildings.”
Three students died after being shot by another student at Chardon High School — about 30 miles east of Cleveland — on Feb. 27, 2012.
“This is the beginning of an ongoing discussion in the legislature to help school districts secure the buildings and protect their children,” Oelslager said.
Plain Local Schools welcomes the change, but said security is already part of its budgeting process.
“The legislation is certainly a positive option for districts in the state of Ohio as it offers them, along with their communities, a means to provide funding for new or needed safety improvements that are out of their general operating budget,” said Brent May, Plain Local superintendent.
Plain Local improved the security at its buildings last winter, installing security systems at every building that enable staff to see and speak to those requesting entry into the buildings. The district also updated its safety plan and increased its focus on the topic during staff meetings and student assemblies.
Those changes followed the Dec. 14, 2012, shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 students and six teachers died at the hands of a gunman.
“Plain Local has a crisis management plan in place that has been reviewed and approved by local safety officials,” May said.
“You can never be prepared for every instance but we are working very hard to be as prepared as possible. We practice evacuations, lockdowns and other safety procedures with our students and staff.”
Canton Local Schools officials believe school security is a priority, but don’t plan on seeking a tax levy for security any time soon.
The district is looking at larger levies that would address more of the district’s facilities needs. The high school was built in 1931 and additions have been added over the years to meet the needs of the growing community.
A $37.2 million bond issue to construct and renovate schools failed in May, the district’s third attempt to raise money for new buildings. The school board voted Monday night to put a similar request on the November ballot.
“At this point, we are moving forward with the same issue that we had in May of last year, with the exception of the turf. We will not be asking voters for new turf for the football team,” said Superintendent Kim Redmond.
Page 2 of 2 - “The whole idea of safety and security is a hot topic, and at Canton Local, it is a priority.”
Al Osler, superintendent of Tuslaw Local Schools, one of smallest school districts in Stark County, said his district is fortunate that most of its buildings are new with secured entrances. The school is in the process of getting a resource officer to help with security.
The high school was built in 2005 and the elementary during the 2011-12 school year.
For Michael Shreffler, superintendent of Northwest Local Schools, safety is a “partnership between the local community and the schools. I think the folks have too many taxes. All of our buildings are relatively new, and all of the cameras, locks and other safety necessities came with the new buildings.”
Oelslager said Senate Bill 42 gives the schools an opportunity to ask for funds to keep their schools safe, but ultimately, it is up to the voters to decide the outcome.
The legislation doesn't specify when it would take effect, but, the earliest a school could seek a safety levy would be in November. The deadline to put a levy on the November ballot is Aug. 7.
Reach Denise at 330-580-8321
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