A proposed 0.75-mill levy is key to the Lorain County JVS board’s goal of becoming the state’s model career center by 2023.
“This is about improving our facility and having relevant, rigorous curriculum,” said JVS treasurer Cory Thompson during an Oct. 9 issues forum in Oberlin. “Our mission is to give every single student a path to success. Lab improvements are a big part of that.”
Our readers will help decide at the polls Nov. 6 whether the Pittsfield Township vocational school will get a $4.5 million increase from property taxes.
That breaks down to about $2.18 per month for every $100,000 worth of property you own, Thompson said.
Funds would be used for projects including upgrades to the school’s labs, bus garages, parking lot, sprinkler system, curriculum labs, and driveways, school officials have said.
Voters approved a 0.75-mill operational levy renewal for the JVS in 2016. Operational funds are used for expenses such as employee salaries and utilities but can’t be used for measures like building renovations, schools buses, lawnmowers, or textbooks.
Funds raised by permanent improvement levies like the one on the fall ballot go toward projects and purchases with a shelf life of five or more years such as building fixes, lot paving, and air conditioning upgrades.
Ayers Ratliff, a board of education member at both the JVS and Wellington Schools, is publicly campaigning against the levy.
He’s contended that it asks too much from taxpayers, creates school financing inequality, and that JVS board members have not determined how all revenue would be spent.
“All 14 Lorain County school districts get about $8 million each year in permanent improvement money,” Ratliff said. “Those 14 districts run 365 buses every day. To replace a bus now, it’s about $100,000. (Thompson) has said some machines cost $100,000. Well, the 14 other county districts have 365 machines they need to replace. This levy would give the JVS 56 percent of what all of the county’s school districts combined get.”
Thompson said the JVS operates on an annual budget between $19 million and $20 million and currently has a $7 million cash surplus. But he also projects the extra funds to be depleted within five years.
“There are many things you can’t just retrofit and they have to be replaced,” he said. “We had two air handlers that we thought, based on the systems, would be a couple hundred thousand to fix. Then we were told, ‘Sorry. This just won’t work in a system designed in 1968. You’re going to have to do a lot of replacing.’ That’s what we’re finding in almost every one of our projects in the building.”
The JVS has never had a permanent improvement levy and uses its general fund to pay for those types of projects.
Roughly $1.5 million is spent per year on preventative maintenance, not including the cost of repair and replacement work, according to superintendent Glenn Faircloth.
JVS board members originally discussed a 0.50-mill levy but decided that 0.75-mills was needed to cover yearly spending fluctuations.
Ratliff said he would have supported a 0.20-mill measure.
JVS board vice president Rex Engle, an appointee from the Amherst Schools, took issue with Ratliff’s views.
“I want it clearly stated that Mr. Ratliff is not speaking on behalf of the board of education,” he said. “He was speaking on behalf of his representation for just Wellington. All other 12 members of the board voted unanimously to support this issue and we’d just like to say that you do need to vote yes on the issue.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.