Levies on track to return to ballot

by Laura Bednar

July 10 board of education special meeting

The Independence Local Schools Board of Education is again submitting a levy renewal and addition to the November ballot, this time as separate issues.

The renewal remains the same amount at $4.2 million and the addition, which was previously $3 million has been reduced to $2 million. Treasurer Eric Koehler estimated the millage for just the addition as approximately 3.8 mills. Millage for the renewal levy on the May ballot was 8.19. The final millage will be calculated by the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer and sent to board members for approval later this month.

Both levies would run for a period of 10 years.

At a June 29 board meeting, Koehler said splitting the levy renewal and increase into two separate issues could help avoid the confusion that the proposed May levy caused. Board member Ron Bernstein agreed that the ballot language was confusing.

“Either way, there’s going to be deficit spending if we don’t pass both of them,” said board member Lynne Laski.

If both levies pass, Superintendent Ben Hegedish said the district would still implement budget adjustments such as a freeze on new programming. Hegedish described the adjustments as “operational tweaks for efficiencies that the average resident, student and employee wouldn’t notice.”

Board member Carrie Sears asked how the board and administration plan to educate the community on the need for the levies and why they are being proposed as separate issues. The Ohio Auditor prohibits public officials from promoting levies while they are acting in their roles. Hegedish said this means board members may not express their opinions on the levy while at a board meeting or in another official capacity, but can speak openly when “off the clock.”

He added that the district can offer strictly factual information through the schools’ quarterly publication and public town hall meetings. ∞