2 local school districts think August elections worth expense

Most counties will not have special elections.

Voters in just two school districts in an eight-county region will decide tax issues in an Aug. 5 special election.

Those districts — Lebanon in Warren County and Northeastern in Clark County — think the additional expense required to pay for special elections is justified and allows them another chance for passage in November if voters reject the requests in August.

Taxing authorities in Montgomery, Butler, Greene, Miami, Darke and Preble counties opted not to call special August elections, prompting expressions of relief from election boards.

“As election officials, we are thrilled we don’t have an August election, so we can adequately and timely prepare for the gubernatorial in 2014,” said Jan Kelly, director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections. “Coming into a gubernatorial, it really sets us back.”

In addition, officials said special elections cost voters more than general elections because the taxing jurisdictions — the two districts in this case — pay the entire cost of the election, as opposed to the just the cost of ballots and legal advertising during even numbered years like 2014.

During odd years, the jurisdictions also pick up all costs for primary and general elections, officials said.

In 2013, the Northeastern district paid about $19,000 for an August election, according to Matthew Tlachac, director of the Clark County Board of Elections.

Special elections cost roughly $1,000 more per precinct, depending on number of voters and other factors, officials said.

Warren County election officials estimated the Aug. 5 election would cost about $30,000 more than in November.

Lebanon Superintendent Mark North compared the cost to “an insurance policy against losing $4.2 million.”

The levy expires at the end of 2014.

By going on the August ballot, Lebanon can count on another try in November if voters reject the three-year, 5.38 mill levy — previously renewed in 2008 and 2011.

“If something strange happens, it gives us one more shot,” North said.

The levy costs property owners $164.77 a year per $100,000 in property value, while providing $4.2 million a year in operating funds, according to Warren County Auditor Nick Nelson.

“If we don’t have that revenue coming in, the district would be devastated,” North said. “You would have to fire over 100 people.”

In the Northeastern district, voters have previously rejected additional levies in November 2012, as well as August and November 2013.

The 1-percent income tax is projected to raise more than $4.1 million a year for five years, the equivalent of an additional 9.08 mills in property tax, according to a resolution passed by the school board.

Rather than from general funds, the board pays the election costs out of 2015 property tax distributions, Tlachac said.

While spanning all or part of 19 precincts, Tlachac estimated the Northeastern election would cost about $16,000.

Voters last approved a new levy in 2004, Northeastern Superintendent Lou Kramer said.

Meanwhile, costs have risen with inflation, Kramer said. The district has made 10 percent in budget cuts in recent years, most recently cutting high-school busing, according to Kramer.

By going to voters in August, the board can count on another chance with voters in November, if needed.

In addition, “if we’re successful (in August), we can immediately bring back high-school busing,” Kramer said.

While Northeastern voters are being asked to pay additional taxes, Lebanon voters are being asked to continue paying the same amount they were originally assessed when the emergency levy first passed in 2005.

Meanwhile, the district dropped to 24th lowest among 610 Ohio school district in terms of spending per pupil, while cutting costs in each of the last three years, North said.

“It’s been renewed the first time every time,” North said. “There’s no new tax.”

New voters have until July 7 to register to vote in the special election. Also, Aug. 6 is the deadline for the Nov. 4 gubernatorial election.

Instead of preparing for that, election officials in Warren and Clark counties will also have to gear up for the August election.

Ballots must be printed, poll workers identified, and equipment programmed and transported to polling places.

“I was looking forward to November too,” said Brian Sleeth, director of the election board in Warren County.

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