After four previous attempts to pass levy, ACGC residents finally offer their support
GROVE CITY -- The results of a special levy election in the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District weren't known until close to 1 a.m. Thursday. The wait was worth it, as the levy passed by a 103-vote margin. "Hallelujah," said Dr. Keith Redfi...
GROVE CITY -- The results of a special levy election in the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District weren't known until close to 1 a.m. Thursday.
The wait was worth it, as the levy passed by a 103-vote margin.
"Hallelujah," said Dr. Keith Redfield, interim superintendent, who sounded chipper and wide awake during an early morning telephone interview shortly after election judges announced the results.
"I'm happy for the kids and I'm happy for the families with kids in school. They needed this in the worst way."
Since 2005 ACGC has been in statutory operating debt, meaning the amount of the unreserved general fund does not meet state standards.
Since then, about $1 million in budget cuts were made and four attempts to get a new operating levy on the books have failed.
The last defeat came in November, when the measure was voted down by 23 ballots.
This time around -- the fifth election in four years -- the levy passed 1,136-1,033.
"Thrilled. Excited," were the first two words from Judy Raske, chairwoman of the ACGC school board.
With graduation today, Raske had been dreading the thought of being on stage handing out diplomas with another failed levy hanging overhead.
"It's going to be a good graduation," she said. "It's a good way to end the school year."
Raske admitted Thursday she didn't expect the levy to pass. "Yes, to be honest with you I was (surprised). Due to the state of the economy, I thought it would be tougher to pass."
The $1,075-per-pupil levy will generate approximately $437,000 in new revenue for the financially struggling district.
The levy will be in place for seven years and will replace an existing $650-per-pupil levy that will now be revoked.
"It's just great. Now we can actually move forward," said Raske, who would like to see the district eventually add electives back into the education program.
Because classes were eliminated to save money, there were so few electives available for students this winter that 62 high school students were serving as teachers' assistants to fill time.
The music department went from two instructors to just one person, who now teaches both band and choir. That has hurt the program, Raske said. She hopes the program can be restored.
Because revenue from the new levy won't come to the district until the 2009-2010 school year, there won't be any new additions made next year.
It will be "slim pickins'" for the 2008-09 school budget, Redfield said. The district will have to stay with the "same conservative program we've had this year," he said. "There will be very little change."
"This next year will still be tight," Raske said. The board and administration, including a new interim superintendent who will come on board July 1, will take time to decide the priorities of the district and where the new revenue should be dedicated.
The funds will be "used in the most fiscally responsible way," said Raske, who sought to assure voters. "We're not out here wasting their money. We're here to provide a good education for the district."
Because there was just one polling location for this election, instead of three, it will be impossible to tell where the surge of "yes" votes came from this year.
Raske said she hopes that the levy passage will end years of emotional division between the three communities in the district. "We can quit looking at the divisions and look at the unity instead."