COVENTRY TWP. Renewal levies are not normally defeated, but voters in the Coventry Local Schools did just that May 2 by shooting down Issue 16, a 9.91-mill levy that generates $2.88 million a year.
Now, the district is looking forward on how to change voters' minds on the issue, which was first passed in 2003 and last renewed in 2012. The levy costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $300 annually.
"The district was deeply disappointed in the defeat of our renewal levy but perhaps even more disappointed in the number of people who came out to vote," Superintendent Russell Chaboudy said.
He said based on the renewal levy from 2015, district officials knew there would be around 1,200 voters who would not support a school issue.
"Our problem was the number of positive voters which is usually 1,400-1,600 just did not show up at the polls," Chaboudy said. "Our biggest disappointment was that many of our parents did not vote."
The final election results from the Summit County Board of Elections showed 1,209 people voted against the issue and 926 voted for it.
Passage of the levy would have helped the district get of fiscal emergency this year, according to school officials.
Following the defeat of the levy, Coventry Schools Taxpayers Accountability Coalition (CSTAC) released the following statement:
"It is heartbreaking to watch what district leadership has done to our schools and have to vote down funding in order to force a change. Our schools’ problems are due to years of mismanagement by the superintendent, treasurers and long-term board members. They have insistently followed a failed business model against the recommendations of the State Auditor's and the taxpayers who fund them. In doing so, they have diluted the quality of education for resident students and our community. Coventry Schools are ranked shamefully low by the state and recently in U.S. News and World Report. No one has asked them to eliminate open enrollment, only to reduce it to affordable levels. They refuse. Unfortunately, all the community can do is deny funding in order to promote their removal and replacement. We think it’s pretty obvious that the voters were expressing their objection to the district’s response to the auditor of state performance review. They don’t believe the district’s self-assessment."
CSTAC members said they will continue to attend board and commission meetings to express their point of view, which is the same as the auditor of state's on open enrollment. A report from the state Auditor's Office estimated Coventry's open enrollment policy costs the district about $1 million a year.
A report compiled by Treasurer Matthew Muccio and Assistant Superintedent Lisa Blough, however, disputed the auditor's report and instead reported that open enrollment brings in a net of more than $3 million per year.
CSTAC, however, plans to center its decisions based on what the district does to address open enrollment further. The group said if no changes are made, then members will have no other choice than to oppose the ballot issue again.
In addition to changes to open enrollment, the group wants to see new board members and a new superintendent.
The district, on the other hand, is looking toward the future.
"One of the reasons school districts put levies on early is in case they are defeated you have some time before you would actually begin to lose funding," Chaboudy said.
The board likely will place the issue back on the ballot in November.
"Unfortunately, the board and administration will now have to begin putting together a reduction list that would go into place following a November defeat as the district would need to begin preparing for a loss of $3 million if the renewal levy does not pass by 2019," Chaboudy said.
With cuts possibly looming, the district is hoping to avoid getting to that stage.
"We are still optimistic that our community will rally around the schools, as most people understand good communities have good schools," Chaboudy said. "We were happy to see the township issues pass and with a successful passage of the school renewal issue in November, we believe the entire community will be headed in a very positive direction."