Thursday, March 06, 2008

quick reactions/solutions to recent levy defeats

I went to bed at 3am Tuesday night, mildly shocked that the tally at the Mahoning County Board of Election's website showed the WRTA levy passing 51% to 49%. Additionally, the Youngstown school levy was ahead by three votes.

I love when votes come down to just a handful of people, but this was not meant to be the case.

It turned out the next day with all precincts reporting that the 0.25 percent sales tax to create a regional bus system for mahoning county failed 57% to 43%. Currently, only Youngstown city residents pay taxes for the system which extends beyond the city's limits. The Youngstown city school levy failed as well.

So some quick thoughts as I read the paper this morning:

- - - WRTA (Western Reserve Transit Authority)

According to this article, the bus service will need to reduce some routes, raise fairs, cut staff, etc. to meet their shortfall. Last year after a reduction of state and federal support along with increased fuel expenses, service was reduced by 50 percent, as all evening and weekend routes were eliminated.

The rejected plan called for a county-wide sales tax to extend the sytstem to all parts of the county, thus supporting the existing system as well. Politically, is seems like a hard sell for the rural corners of the state whose voters are not familar with the existing bus service.

So I keep thinking - is there a way to create a funding mechanism for the city and inner-ring suburbs alone, which will exclude the further out sections of the county?

Maybe a solution [I haven't thought this one all the way through - it's a morning reaction for the most part] is using the JEDD concept (Joint Economic Development District) to fund the bus system. Is it possible to utilize funds generated from water use, which come from the more dense and urbanized sections of the region, and fund urban-wide and not county-wide busing?

- - - Youngstown School Levy

Then this story discusses what to do next regarding troubles with funding the city schools.

So what's a school system to do?

Solution: Bring in Tressel

Check out this story in the Columbus Dispatch:
"Even in the off-season, Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel scores wins.

His record is 3-0 in endorsing property-tax increases that voters subsequently OK'd for Columbus, Gahanna-Jefferson and South-Western schools.

His latest effort: Reynoldsburg schools' $56 million bond issue for new schools and building improvements.

Voters received recorded phone messages from the coach yesterday, asking them to vote for the bond issue that would pay for a new high school and elementary school and upgrades for six buildings. Voters rejected a similar request in 2006."
it this a possibility?
Gahanna-Jefferson school board member Windy McKenna said Tressel's presence was a big draw.

"I remember one lady coming in the door, and I said, 'Welcome to our campaign kickoff,' " McKenna recalled.

The woman responded, "What campaign kickoff? We're here to see coach Tressel."


Tyler said...

If we can recruit Pavlik and Tressel, we've got the votes!

Mike Prelee said...

The JEDD idea is interesting. Especially if newly developed areas could be identified as having their tax revenue go directly to WRTA. Unfortunately, I think Mayor Williams may have mishandled the water situation to the point where none of the surrounding townships will be interested in developing a JEDD with the city. Perhaps limiting his idea to newly developed land instead of existing sites would have allowed a targeted approach as you suggest.