Canton City, Louisville, Perry and North Canton districts forced to wait.
The delay of the primary election has left some local school districts in limbo.
Canton City and Louisville school districts are seeking property tax levies to support their operating expenses. Perry and North Canton school districts each are seeking bond issues to build and improve facilities.
They expected to know – win or lose – on Tuesday how to plan for next school year.
But late Monday night, Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, issued an order to close the election polls, citing the health risk to voters and pollworkers who could be exposed to or inadvertently spread the coronavirus. Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a directive to county boards of elections to comply with the order and to prepare for a June 2 in-person election.
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Canton City and Louisville school leaders have said if their levies fail, they would need to reduce their budgets by millions of dollars starting next school year. A school’s fiscal year begins July 1.
“It will impact us because we can’t sustain our current level of spending (without new funds),” Canton City Schools Superintendent Jeff Graham said. “If (the levy) had passed or failed on March 17, we would’ve had time to react in a manner that is respectful to all involved. (The delay) changes that.”
He also said making decisions about cuts when most employees are offsite also poses a challenge.
Louisville Superintendent Michele Shaffer said district leaders are disappointed the election has been postponed but understand the decision was made in the best interest of voters and poll workers.
“The delay will add to the financial uncertainty of our district, and we will need to develop a plan of action in the future,” she said.
But she and Graham both said the delayed election is not their immediate concern.
“Our focus right now is meeting the needs of our students and families by making sure they have access to nutritious meals and social-emotional supports,” said Shaffer, who has been meeting with city, nonprofit, business, church and community leaders this week to find ways they can work together to support residents.
Perry Local Superintendent Scott Beatty said the delay won’t significantly impact the timeline for the district’s planned $164 million project if the $53.4 million bond issue passes in June. The project includes the construction of four buildings for kindergarten through fifth grade, the start of renovations at Perry High School and an expansion project at the Perry Career and Wellness Center.
But he said the delay does effect the levy campaign committee that has spent months trying to educate voters on how the money raised would be spent.
“Now, you have to regroup and say we have to do this until June 2,” he said.
He said the campaign plans to focus on helping people vote via absentee ballot, which can be requested by downloading forms available on the Stark County Board of Elections and on the Ohio Secretary of State websites.
“Vote now and stay safe,” he said. “Who knows where we’ll go before June 2.”
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