By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Financially strapped Lockland Schools will not have enough money to open its doors in fall 2004, officials say, if voters do not pass of an operating levy by the end of the year.
Their 15-mill operating levy is one of five money issues on the ballot for southwest Ohio voters during Tuesday's special election. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
With 650 students, Lockland Schools is Hamilton County's smallest district. After a 24.1-mill levy failed this year, the district cut 26 jobs - saving about $1.4 million annually.
Should voters in Lockland and Arlington Heights approve the 15-mill levy Tuesday, it would generate $2.5 million a year. Taxes on a $75,000 home would increase $345 a year.
If voters do not pass an operating levy before year's end, the district will have to dissolve and the students would merge with another district. Taxes would still go up because residents would be taxed at the same rate of whatever district accepts Lockland's students.
In Warren County, Franklin Schools are hoping voters will approve a $16.7 million bond issue to help reduce overcrowding. The 3,100-student district wants to add a dozen classrooms to the junior high to make room for sixth-graders. Students have been attending class in the hallways because of the lack of space, and some teachers do not have classrooms.
The 2.84-mill issue also would fund classrooms at each elementary school, roof and window improvements in all buildings, a wellness/fitness center and weight room at the high school, and a concession stand and restrooms at the stadium. The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $87 each year.
Besides the schools, three communities are seeking votes for funds.
Mason voters will decide on a 5-mill replacement levy to generate $4.2 million a year for its fire department and emergency services. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $33 a year. The levy replaces a 5-mill levy voters approved in 1998, when the city created its own fire department.
Voters in Clermont County's Tate Township will decide on a 4.1-mill continuing operating levy to help the Bethel-Tate Fire Department pay full-time staff to run a 24-hour ambulance unit.
The levy would generate about $542,417 per year over the next five years, costing the owner of a $100,000 home $125.56 annually.
In Jackson Township, a similar proposal for safety services - fire, ambulance/paramedic and emergency medical services - is at issue.
Voters there will consider a 2-mill, five-year replacement fire levy. If approved it is expected to generate $78,000 each of the next five years.
Also during Tuesday's election, Clermont's Board of Elections will conduct its second test of upgraded voting equipment that uses optical scanners to scan pencil marks made in preprinted ovals on paper.
Marie McCain and Sue Kiesewetter contributed to this story.
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