ONTARIO — Residents of the Ontario Local School District passed a 5-year, 6.9 mill operating levy on Tuesday night.
The vote passed by a slim margin, 1,772 to 1,585 with 52.8 percent of voters supporting the levy, according to final unofficial vote totals from the Richland County Board of Elections.
Superintendent Lisa Carmichael extended her thanks to the community on behalf of the board of education.
“This levy will allow the district to preserve and maintain the education it offers, and it will ensure that our schools remain in solid fiscal health for years to come,” Carmichael said. “We are grateful for the support of our parents and community members and we will continue to operate in a lean manner, while providing educational programs and opportunities to students that will prepare them for college, career and life.”
Residents will pay approximately $20 per month, per $100,000 of property market value for the first two years. In 2022, the district will stop collecting on a 1998 bond issue, so the overall cost to the taxpayer will drop to $7 per month.
The levy will generate approximately $1,935,000 per year for the school district, allowing it to maintain its $18 million annual budget. School officials said this funding will go towards the district’s day-to-day operating expenses and keep the district from implementing drastic cuts.
If the levy had not passed, the district would have made extensive cuts beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.
The proposed spending reduction plan would have eliminated all high school transportation and transportation for students living within a two-mile radius of the school. Also, art, music, physical education and technology courses at the elementary school would've been placed in jeopardy.
It also would have required the district to make numerous personnel cuts and reduce the length of the school day by approximately 40 minutes.
The levy is the first passed by the district since 2006. The district attempted to pass a 5-year, 6.5 mill operating levy in November 2010 and again in May 2011; both failed.
“There are so many people to thank for this success, among those are the outstanding volunteers and supporters that worked so hard to inform our community and pass this levy,” said Amy Hiner, levy campaign chairperson. “Our Ontario Schools belong to all of us, and I am thrilled the community has given us this opportunity to maintain our excellent schools.”
District treasurer Randy Harvey said he was "very, very happy" with the results and that the levy will stabilize the district's financial future for the next five years.