News Article Details

Everything you should know about Issue 1, the school safety and mental health levy

Canton Repository - 7/29/2018

July 29--The Canton Repository has fielded numerous calls from readers about Issue 1, the levy to fund initiatives related to school security, safety and mental health on the ballot Aug. 7. Here are some of the most common questions:

Q: How would levy money be used?

A: All levy proceeds from Issue 1 must be used to fund safety, security and mental health issues for the 16 participating school districts. Some of the objectives it would fund include hiring additional school resource officers and mental health personnel for school buildings; implementing a "digital citizenship and education" program (for example, social media education and anti-bullying programming); crisis management, including updated alert systems; and hardware and software upgrades, as recommended by the Stark County School Safety and Security Task Force. Additional information on how the money would be spent can be found at www.saferschoolssaferstudents.com, which is a site set up in support of the levy.

Q: Who would ensure the money is spent the way districts say it would be spent?

A: The Ohio Auditor's Office would oversee how the money is spent and conduct audits to ensure it is used for safety and mental health issues as required by state law.

Q: How will the recent increase in property tax appraisals affect the levy?

A: Property tax values countywide have increased since the millage (1.49 mills) was set for this levy. Because values have increased, the millage of the levy would adjust down when collections begin in January, so it would be less than 1.49 mills, according to Stark County's Auditor's Office. The total amount raised would remain the same: $9.5 million.

Q: How can I calculate what my payment would be?

A: To figure the exact amount it would cost you, take the county auditor's appraised value of your home and multiply it by 0.35 (for this example, $150,000 x 0.35 = $52,500). Take that result ($52,500) and multiply it by 0.00149 for the levy contribution per year, $78.23, as the owner of a $150,000 home.

Q: Why a continuing levy instead of one that could be reviewed at regular intervals, say every three or five years?

A: According to Educational Service Center officials, the need to provide a "safe and secure learning environment is our most important priority. By making this continuing, districts can implement and plan appropriately, knowing that the resources will be there to ensure they are as safe as reasonably possible."

Q: Which school districts are participating?

A: Alliance City, Louisville City, Massillon City, North Canton City, Fairless Local, Jackson Local, Lake Local, Marlington Local, Minerva Local, Northwest Local, Osnaburg Local, Plain Local, Sandy Valley Local, Tuslaw Local, Brown Local and Strasburg-Franklin Local.

Q: How much would each district pay in and receive back? What can you say about those receiving less than they pay?

A: The amount each district's voters would pay is based on property valuations, as determined by the Stark County Auditor's Office. The amount each district would receive is based on enrollment at $225 per student. For example, residents living in the Plain Local School District have a combined property valuation of $985.5 million and would contribute $1.46 million toward the levy. Based on enrollment numbers, Plain Local would receive $1.4 million. Sandy Valley Local has combined property valuation of $165 million and would contribute $246,098 to the levy and receive $317,146, based on enrollment. Each district's contribution and proceeds vary. The levy would generate $9.5 million for more than 42,000 students in the participating districts. Typically in countywide levy issues, areas such as Jackson and Plain townships pay more than other areas because home valuations exceed the county average there.

Q: What about the other Stark ESC districts?

A: Canton City, Canton Local, Perry Local, Carrollton, Green and Dalton opted out. Residents of those school districts would not pay for the levy even it is passes. They also would not receive any of the proceeds to use for safety or mental health services.

Q: If a majority of voters in my school district vote this levy down, would we still pay the tax if the levy passes countywide?

A: Yes. Voters in the 16 participating districts are voting as one combined unit. The overall results determine the outcome. It passes or fails for all 16 together.

Q: What is the cost to an owner of a $100,000 home?

A: $52.15 a year. The owner of a $300,000 home would pay $156.45.

Q: Why did you pursue a special election in August and not wait until November, when more voters hit the polls?

A: Officials from the Stark County Educational Service Center said they wanted to go on the May ballot but could not meet the deadline to file. August was selected because the issue would have been competing with other local government tax issues in November. "The leadership teams across the county felt it was so important it needed individual attention in August, and we did not want to compete against any other (tax) issues," ESC Superintendent Joe Chaddock said.

Q: What are you doing to promote the issue? Do you feel like voters are aware of the issue?

A: A website has been established at www.saferschoolssaferstudents.com to inform people of Issue 1. There have been multiple stories in local news media, particularly The Canton Repository and its sister papers, and there have been community meetings in districts with superintendents and administrators. Also, all participating districts held public meetings where Issue 1 was discussed.

Q: Who pays the expense of putting the levy on the ballot?

A: Each school district contributed a share of the ballot expense to the Stark Educational Service Center, and the ESC served as a pass-through to the Board of Elections for the ballot expense. Districts contributed based on their enrollment. The total cost incurred will be about $300,000.

Q: Why should voters support Issue 1?

A: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ohio Department of Health have determined the mental health issues represented by the local student population is a contagion, one of the worst on record. This spreading of a harmful idea or practice is unlikely to end without some intervention, ESC officials said. "The well-being of our youth is something all community members have a vested stake in," Chaddock said. "This is not a political or religious issue, but rather a concern we all share and need to support. Our nation's children are our greatest asset and our most precious treasure."

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(c)2018 The Repository, Canton, Ohio

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