Voters reject Cleveland school levy; mixed results across state

CLEVELAND (AP) - Voters overwhelmingly rejected a school levy Tuesday, leaving the state's largest district faced with a projected $30 million budget deficit next year.

Statewide, 20 issues passed out of 51, or 37 percent. The number of requests from 49 of the state's 612 districts was half the number last August, in part because August levies have historically fared poorly -- with a five-year average of 33 percent through last year.

Sixty-five percent of voters rejected the Cleveland district's $46 million tax issue. Tuesday's levy failed by a worse margin than a $68 million issue voters rejected in November. School leaders already have laid off about 1,400 employees in the last two years and permanently closed 11 schools when classes ended in June.

About two-thirds of the tax issue would have gone to closing the projected budget hole, and the rest would have used to bring back some of the laid-off teachers and restore other cuts.

Campaign manager Chris Carmody said the loss was due to a bad local economy and confusion among voters about the difference between an operating tax and the construction bond issue passed in 2001.

Also Tuesday, voters approved a levy for the Cloverleaf school district in Lodi, about 35 miles southwest of Cleveland. Voters there had rejected eight previous levies, and district officials feared a state takeover of the district if the latest vote failed.

"When push came to shove and it was state-takeover time, our community rallied," Superintendent Bruce Hulme said.

Among other northeast Ohio districts, levy attempts failed in Berea, Euclid and Garfield Heights in Cuyahoga County; Brunswick in Medina County; Manchester and Revere in Summit County; Rittman in Wayne County; Southeast in Portage County; and Clearview in Lorain County, which had two separate levy requests. Garfield Heights had pulled a request for an additional levy from the ballot last week but kept a smaller renewal levy on the ballot.

In northwest Ohio's Hancock county, levies passed in Van Buren and Vanlue but failed for a second time in Arcadia.

Borrowing packages to pay for new schools failed in the Johnstown-Monroe district in central Ohio's Licking County but passed in Marysville in Union County.

In southwest Ohio, levies passed in the Three Rivers district in Hamilton County, Edgewood in Butler County and Franklin in Warren County.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)