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School levies renewed

March 7, 2012
By Evan Bevins - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

Residents of the Marietta City and Wolf Creek Local school districts voted to maintain levies, providing funding for operating expenses and permanent improvements.

According to final, unofficial results released Tuesday night, Marietta's 7.75-mill operating levy was renewed with the support of about 52.4 percent of voters, slightly less than the 53.8 percent that voted to renew the district's 2.69-mill permanent improvement levy. The levies will cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 an annual $237.34 and $82.38, respectively. Both will run for five more years.

The margin was wider in Wolf Creek, with nearly 65 percent of voters supporting the renewal of a five-year, 5.76-mill emergency levy. The owner of a $100,000 home will pay $176.40 a year.

There are not enough provisional ballots in either district to change the outcome of the races when the official canvass is held March 19.

More absentee voters opposed the Marietta levies than supported them but those casting ballots on Election Day turned that early tide.

Marietta board of education President Greg Gault admitted a little anxiety when he saw the early numbers, as did Superintendent Harry Fleming.

Fact Box

School levies

Final, unofficial totals

Marietta City Schools 7.75-mill operating levy

For: 2,539 (52.36 percent)

Against: 2,310 (47.64 percent)

Marietta City Schools 2.69-mill permanent improvement levy

For: 2,608 (53.8 percent)

Against: 2,240 (46.2 percent)

Source: Washington County Board of Elections.

Wolf Creek Local Schools 5.76-mill emergency levy

For: 518 (64.75 percent)

Against: 282 (35.25 percent)

Source: Washington County Board of Elections.

"I'm always nervous on a school levy," Fleming said.

The operating levy brings in $3,842,394.34 a year, which can be used for any district expenses. The permanent improvement levy collects $1,198,437.52 and can only be spent on items that last longer than five years, such as books, buses and building improvements.

Losing either source of funding would have meant significant changes for the district.

"We certainly appreciate what the community did," Gault said. "It allows us to go ahead with projects and programs we started after the last levy."

Voters approved an additional 6.21-mill operating levy for the district in 2011.

The permanent improvement funds have been used for roof repairs, boiler replacements, parking lot resurfacing, security upgrades and more. Fleming said there are more such projects on the horizon for the district.

"The main thing I would like to say is thank you to the voters," he said. "We're going to use the tax dollars wisely and we're going to continue to ... improve the educational process for the students of Marietta City Schools."

Marietta resident Mark Morris, 45, voted in favor of both levies.

"We owe the best possible future we can to our children," he said. "I think it's really important that we double down on our kids' education ... because we've got a long row to hoe in terms of the (national) debt we have to retire."

Recent Marietta High School graduate Autumn Andrews, 19, said she voted against the levies because of her frustration with the state's failure to address an unconstitutional school funding system and the reliance on local taxes to bolster school budgets.

"I think the school should take that responsibility and just do fundraising," she said.

Andrews also expressed disappointment with recent Marietta school district decisions, including eliminating French classes and requiring drug testing of student athletes.

Wolf Creek Superintendent Bob Caldwell echoed Fleming in thanking his district's voters.

"I'm appreciative (that) the residents one again are showing they have a lot of respect for the young people of Wolf Creek Local," he said. "They have tremendous pride in their schools."

The Wolf Creek levy can be used for any district expenses, but board members and administrators have pledged to set a portion of it aside for building repairs that will be needed in the years ahead, including roofs at the high school and elementary school and replacement of single-pane windows at the buildings.

Caldwell said he was optimistic voters would renew the levy, and that comes with a responsibility for the district to use the money wisely.

"I believe this means we'll have to be very conservative in our spending," he said.

Waterford Township resident Melba Flesher, 75, said she made sure to get back from a vacation in the South in time to vote for the school levy - and throw her two cents in on the presidential primary.

"I've always voted for school levies. Our children are the most important thing," said Flesher, who graduated from Waterford High School, just like her four children and four of her grandchildren. "Even if it had been a new one, I would've voted for it."



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