The Canal Winchester Times

Canal Winchester

Levy campaign seeks aid from Support Ohio Schools

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The Canal Winchester Board of Education spent much of its time at the March 17 meeting focusing on the district's May levy.

Superintendent Jim Sotlar introduced Lachandra Baker, who is leading the levy campaign, and discussed the need to keep the school system on a "path of progress and success."

Baker, who has two children in the school district, told the board she believes in what the administration and staff are doing to be "fiscally responsible" and to provide "excellence and progress" for the school system and community.

"My job, with a team of volunteers, is to get supporters out to vote and pass the levy," Baker said. "Great schools and great communities go hand in hand."

She said the levy committee has enlisted the assistance of Support Ohio Schools to help with the levy campaign.

According to its website, (supportohioschools.org) Support Ohio Schools is a nonprofit research and education foundation "whose purpose is to provide winning strategies and advice to levy campaigns." Groups seeking its help are asked to make an annual "contribution" of $400.

Also according to the SOS website, the Canal Winchester district used its help to get a levy passed in 2009 using a "massive door-to-door effort led by the school superintendent"; public support from the mayor and local church leaders; telephone outreach to voters; "significant" employee involvement; and the use of "parent leaders with marketing backgrounds."

Baker told the board that only about one-third of the district's 11,000 registered voters actually cast ballots in an election. Since the district has seen several levies pass or fail by 50 votes or less, she said the campaign aims to get information to voters through a Facebook page, the school district's website, phone banks and canvassing the neighborhoods.

Sotlar emphasized that passing the levy "will not increase taxes" because the current $5.83-million emergency levy, approved by voters in 2011, will expire Dec. 31.

The district's five-year financial forecast indicates that without renewing the emergency levy May 6, Canal Winchester schools face a $5.3-million deficit by June 30, 2017 and a $13.9-million deficit by June 30, 2018.

Sotlar said the current levy makes up about 16 percent of the district's approximately $35-million operating budget. If it expires without being renewed, the district would no longer have the ability to take advantage of the state continuing to pay a 12.5-percent rollback, he said.

As a result, Sotlar said taxpayers would have to pay the full $5.83 million instead of the approximate $5.1 million they currently pay if a levy is sought after the current one expires.

Sotlar said the district's main job is to "prepare every student for their future."

"On May 6, this levy will continue to provide high-quality programs, teachers and resources needed to accomplish this very important responsibility," he added.

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