More and more Johnstown-Monroe residents are looking for ways to win support for their schools on May 5.

More and more Johnstown-Monroe residents are looking for ways to win support for their schools on May 5.

"This time is different," said Jay Hazelbaker, who co-chairs the effort within Johnstown Just Imagine to educate the community about the proposed levy. "This time, people are coming to us and asking what they can do. They're saying, 'I want to help.' I'm definitely optimistic about the amount of energy and support."

Hazelbaker and co-chair Mike Blenk are working on their fourth consecutive campaign for a J-M school levy.

They say the push is, more than ever, to get accurate facts in front of residents.

The issue facing voters is a five-year, 9.6-mill emergency operating levy that will help prevent deeper cuts in academic, extra- and co-curricular programs. School board members voted earlier this month to cut more teaching positions, vocational agriculture, French, and all activities, clubs and athletics if the levy doesn't pass.

"It's real," Blenk said. "The board voted. It's not a threat. It's done."

Johnstown Just Imagine defines itself not as a levy committee, but as a group of citizens who want to "create more effective and satisfying lives for the youth of our community. We know that, in return, that effort will return value and benefit the entire Johnstown community," according to a statement on the organization's Web page.

There are three sub-divisions or groups working in support of the levy this time: the district staff, a youth-initiated student committee (see related story), and the community group Blenk and Hazelbaker are heading up.

The committees are planning a community forum before Election Day. That event has not yet been scheduled. Until then, their focus is on offering a variety of ways for residents to get information.

The Web site, www.johnstownjustimagine.com, is the most comprehensive. On it, visitors can read answers to often-asked questions regarding the financial state of the district and the levy itself; learn more about funding and tax terms like mills, appraised or market property value, assessed property value and even learn about actual cost; and access links to sites like this month's board presentation by J-M Superintendent Damien Bawn, a "What's Missing Here" quicktime movie about cuts made and pending, Governor Strickland's plan to create a 21st century education system in Ohio, results of the 2005-06 community survey and more.

The campaign has a phone number residents can call, as well, with questions and requests for specific information: 740-809-4024.

"We'll go door-to-door, too," Hazelbaker said. He noted that many people keep saying they don't want to pay more for new schools, without realizing that isn't even on the table at this point. "We're not talking about new schools, we're talking about programs and education."

"Our grandparents and our parents did their duties by paying for our education, and now we don't want to?" Blenk said. "This isn't even increases, it's just to maintain."

Hazelbaker said the levy is no longer just a school issue.

"It's a community issue," he said. "We see people really taking the time to find out the truth about the situation, and you can almost watch a light bulb go on . Johnstown is not full of the kind of people who are sitting around waiting for hand-outs."

Hazelbaker said he feels the committee has made progress in past elections and that people are genuinely concerned enough to volunteer their time, resources and ideas to the effort. The committee meets every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the high school library.

"The ground swell is building," Blenk said. He asks residents to get informed, spread the word to friends, look for ways to help and, more than anything, register to vote. (The deadline is April 6.)

"I learned way back in Boy Scouts that it's a right and a duty," he said. " We need our parents out there voting."