OHIO — Low voter turnout may be to blame for a number of school levies not passing in the primary; but education experts hope to explore why many renewal levies in particular did not pass.

This, as there is now concern that it could be tougher down the road to pass them. 

What You Need To Know

  • Levy renewals not passed this time will be something education experts explore further

  • One district in northeast Ohio now faces fiscal watch because of budget deficits not made up by a levy passing

  • After 40 years of passing a renewal levy, a district in southwest Ohio failed to pass it this time

  • A levy for a central Ohio district asking for new money failed despite the need to address major growth

Some districts won at the ballot box. Among them was Ottawa Hills Local Schools near Toledo, which got voters to pass one of the largest levies on a ballot in the state. However, more than half of the levies on ballots failed.

Jerry Rampelt, the founder of Support Ohio Schools Research Foundation, said typically renewal levies pass. This is in part because districts are not requesting any additional money. They are asking for voters to commit to giving up the same amount they’ve already been giving over time. For Rampelt, this raises a red flag.

“If you were on the ballot and you had difficulty in March and you’re facing having to make cuts, there’s gonna be a heightened sense of urgency in terms of the campaign levy committees,” Rampelt said.

That urgency will force levy campaign volunteers to go door-to-door before November to get the support needed to try to pass a levy again, especially if it’s a renewal.

Renewal or not, several districts facing this sense of urgency include the Olentangy Local School District in central Ohio. The area has seen significant amounts of growth and new schools are needed to keep up, which is why the district put a levy on the ballot.

“It was defeated, and it was defeated overwhelmingly. In fact, the percentage of defeat was 37% for it and 63% against it,” Rampelt siad “And Olentangy has had a history of passing school tax issues. So that was for me, quite a surprise seeing it be defeated by such a large margin.”

Taking a step back, the district said in a statement to parents and staff that the levy “was the district’s lowest operational ask of this community in 30 years, and we are all naturally disappointed the ballot issue did not receive enough voter support.”

It’s not clear how exactly the district will move forward, but they’ll be taking “a closer look at resource alignment and our priorities as we work to meet the needs of an ever-growing student population.”

In the meantime, the Mogadore Local School District near Akron, is now set to enter fiscal watch oversight by the state as they failed to convince voters to chip in $635,000 extra annually for five years. According to the Department of Education and Workforce Development, districts enter this phase when:

  • Their operating deficit exceeds 8% of the school district’s general fund revenue for the preceding fiscal year

  • When the voters have not approved a levy that would raise enough money in the next fiscal year to eliminate the deficit

Garfield Heights City Schools in southwest Ohio failed to pass a renewal levy, which has been renewed for decades until now. Rampelt was surprised by the result and believes low voter turnout may be to blame.

“This will be devastating to the district if this is not passed as a renewal in November,” he said.

Centerville City School District south of Dayton reduced their ask after a levy failed last year by double digits. It came up short again.