Here are the six Portage County school districts that have levies on the Nov. 2 ballot

Waterloo Elementary School. Lyndsey Brennan/The Portager

In the third year of schools operating in the face of Covid-19, six Portage County school districts will go to voters on Nov. 2 to request funding.

Five of those school districts are asking for renewal levies: Aurora City Schools, Crestwood Local Schools, Maplewood Joint Vocational School District, Ravenna School District and Streetsboro City Schools. 

Waterloo Local School District is seeking a 1% earned income tax for five years, which is a reduction from the 1.5% income tax it had sought in previous attempts to pass the levy. It would not apply to income from sources like Social Security or pensions. Voters in the Waterloo district have rejected five previous levies as fewer and fewer households have children in the schools.

Falling deeper into fiscal caution, the district has slashed teaching positions, cut busing for high schoolers and raised fees for extra-curricular activities.

“If it doesn’t pass, we are going to have to ask for a greater amount, whether that be a higher property tax in the 9.75 mills or a 1.25% earned income tax,” Waterloo Superintendent Angela Terella said in a video posted last week. “So we really hope we can get this levy passed at the current ask of 1%.”

For the five districts seeking renewal levies, the cost to taxpayers would be the same as under the previous levies. Residents of these districts would not see an increase in taxes.

“[This is] a renewal for our permanent improvement levy, which was first passed in 1987,” Crestwood Local Schools Superintendent Dan Toth said. “So it is just a renewal of that issue. It’s passed every year.”

With the exception of Waterloo, the tax levies are based on the valuation of properties within the district. For example, in Streetsboro, homeowners would pay a 5.1 mill tax to fund the levy. A “mill” is the equivalent to $1 per every $1,000 of the assessed value of a property. Therefore, Streetsboro residents would pay 51 cents for every $100 of valuation on their home annually.

“It’s a renewal levy, so there are no new taxes involved,” Ravenna City Schools Superintendent Laura Hebert said. “Can you put that in all caps in your story?”

Hebert, who is in her first year as superintendent for Ravenna, talked about how crucial levies are for funding a public school education.

“In the 2017 levy that did pass, that completely helped out students and we were able to increase our capacity as it related to books, buildings and buses,” she said. “[Thanks to that levy] we fulfilled the promises of making sure every kid got a Chromebook, that we had new technology resources available [and] we updated STEM curriculum.”

If the current levy passes, Hebert said they hope to add central air to buildings in the district, which will help to keep kids in classrooms.

“I had to cancel school in the first week for three of the [district’s] five buildings because it was so hot,” Hebert said. “We are trying to get central air in every building along with updating the air filtration and air purification in every single classroom.”

Ravenna’s levy renewal, if passed, would begin in 2022 and last for five years, with the first payment due by 2023. Levies for Aurora, Crestwood and Streetsboro share that structure. Maplewood’s would also commence in 2022, but would last for a period of 10 years. More information on all issues on the Nov. 2 ballot for Portage County are available at the county board of elections website. All polling places will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 2.

School District funding on the November 2021 ballot

Aurora City Schools: five year levy renewal, taxing 73.3 cents per $100 in property valuation.

Crestwood Local Schools: five year levy renewal, taxing 35 cents per $100 in property valuation.

Maplewood Joint Vocational School District: 10 year levy renewal, taxing 30 cents per $100 in property valuation.

Ravenna School District: five year levy renewal, taxing 29 cents per $100 in property valuation.

Streetsboro City Schools: five year levy renewal, taxing 51 cents per $100 in property valuation.

Waterloo Local School District: a 1% increase in annual income tax for a five year duration.

Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to the Ravenna School District as Ravenna City Schools.

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Owen MacMillan is a reporter with the Collaborative News Lab @ Kent State University, producing local news coverage in partnership with The Portager.