Voters approve tax increases for schools, social services

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Cincinnati voters set in motion the biggest public works project in city history, Akron schools won an income tax increase and Cuyahoga County residents approved more day care for children and health care for the elderly.
The $480 million Cincinnati Public Schools bond issue passed Tuesday with 24,716 votes, or 52 percent, for the proposal and 22,550 votes, or 48 percent, against.
"This is a great day for the children of Cincinnati," said Superintendent Alton Frailey. "This is a great day for the neighborhoods of Cincinnati."
Akron voters approved a 0.25 percent, 30-year income tax to aid public schools. The vote was 17,488 (64 percent) to 9,896 (36 percent).
In both cities, tallies were complete but unofficial.
In Cleveland and its suburbs, Cuyahoga County voters approved a human services proposal that became a hot topic when a labor union not only opposed it but campaigned against it.
The measure was approved by 109,295 votes or 54 percent to 93,972 votes or 47 percent, with 99.1 percent of the precincts counted.
The proposal to renovate or replace most of the buildings in the Cincinnati Public Schools district, which failed by 611 votes in November, had the backing of the City Council, Chamber of Commerce and Gov. Bob Taft, a Cincinnatian.
Passage makes Cincinnati eligible for more than $210 million in state funds for the nearly $1 billion, decade-long project to build 35 schools and renovate 31 others.
Supporters say the project will do more than overhaul crumbling buildings.
They say it will rejuvenate neighborhoods throughout the city by creating community learning centers that will be open day and night and on weekends for public use.
"If we get this thing reaching anywhere near it's potential, we'll have people moving back to the city to avail themselves and their children of programs and a community life unavailable in the suburbs," said school board member Jack Gilligan.
There was organized opposition from an anti-tax group called the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes.
"I think they just waste too much money," said Eileen Winterhalter, 65. "And a new school doesn't make brighter students."
Home owners will pay an additional $135 for each $100,000 of valuation.
Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich also voted no.
"It's a massive tax increase," he said. "Senior citizens and other people on a fixed income are going to find it very hard to afford."
Akron voters increased the city's income tax from 2 percent to 2.25 percent to raise about $12 million a year, helping city schools obtain the $270 million needed to get $409 million in state matching funds.
A countywide sales tax for school construction was voted down in November.
Cuyahoga County voters approved a health and human services levy despite an aggressive campaign by a state service union to defeat it.
"This is a victory for a very good community that knows that all families have challenges, that all families need to be able to depend upon others for a caring response," said Commissioner Tim McCormack.
The tax provides money for services such as free home visits to first-time and teenage parents, hot meals for the elderly and foster care for abused, neglected and abandoned children.
The health and human services property tax that expires at the end of this year raises $78.4 million annually and costs the owner of a $100,000 home $84. The new tax will cost the same homeowner $150 and raise an additional $56 million a year.
The Service Employees International Union Local 1199 encouraged voters to oppose the tax, saying social service agencies have wasted or misspent money.
In the Canton area, voters approved a measure making Stark County the last Ohio county to institute a piggyback sales tax for operations.
The 0.25-percent tax is expected to raise about $11 million per year over the next eight years. Sixty percent of voters passed the same issue they had rejected in November.
That rejection forced Sheriff Timothy A. Swanson to cut 54 employees -- about 20 percent of his staff -- and to release more than 200 prisoners from jail.
Democratic voters in Marietta rejected a bid for a fourth four-year term by the president of state association of mayors.
Mayor Joe Matthews finished third in a party primary behind City Councilman Michael Mullen and Council President Kathy Shively.
Chillicothe Mayor Margaret Planton lost her party's primary to former mayor and state Rep. Joe Sulzer, 1,598 to 595. Planton was appointed by the Democratic Central Committee in March 1997 after Sulzer resigned to take an appointment to the Ohio House, and she won a full term in 1999.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)