In our previous article, we discussed how our community is changing in terms of annual income. In this article, we will discuss the history of voter support of our school district’s tax levies and how it is changing. Voter support, or lack thereof, directly impacts the ability of a school district to provide quality programing, teaching expertise, safe and well-maintained schools, transportation, and extracurricular opportunities such as athletics, performing arts, and music. Understanding the willingness of voters to approve new levies determines how we attempt to provide a quality school experience for our students.
Since 1986, residents of the Lakewood School District have rejected 26 of the 33 requests for various levies for operations, maintenance, and facilities. This included one request for an income tax in 2007, while the others were for property taxes. Overall, the community has supported only 21.21% of the levy requests in the past three decades.
Lakewood, like all school districts, must seek additional revenue to keep pace with inflation, aging facilities, and continued legislative changes to educational requirements for children. As a wealthier community, Lakewood does not receive as much funding from the State of Ohio as other communities in the area do. This means more reliance is placed on local taxpayers to maintain a strong school system.
The limitations created when a levy fails, require a district to manage its finances more carefully, often by limiting educational opportunities, deferring maintenance of buildings, and postponing investments in modern technology. As the Lakewood community has changed over the years, more and more residents are recognizing the importance of a having a strong school system.
In the past two decades, residents have made a measurable shift toward voting in support of the district. Between 1993 and 2003, only two of nine levies were approved by voters, producing a 22.00% support rate for school operations. For facilities, the district failed seven requests before passing a bond issue in 1998. In comparison, between 2004 and 2013, (the date of the district’s most recent request) three of eight levies were approved by voters producing a 37.50% support rate for operations. The last levy request in 2013 passed by 59.88%, the highest margin in over 30 years.
The shift in voter support of Lakewood schools is reassuring. The ability to provide a strong school system requires the periodic support of taxpayers. This support allows the district to address many of the basic needs of our children and families.