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Critical Ashtabula County DD board levy fails

By Justin Dennis, Ashtabula Star Beacon
Published Thursday, November 9, 2017

County voters’ decision Tuesday to strike down a measure critical for the Board of Developmental Disabilities has left officials immediately looking at funding options. Meanwhile, southern county voters returned narrow victories and defeats in several replacement levy issues. 

County DD board

Voters denied the county Board of Developmental Disabilities’ proposed .67-mill increase to its operating levy, which would have bumped it to 2 mills. The measure failed at 10,616 votes to 9,466, or 53 percent to 47 percent, according to unofficial results from the county Board of Election.

Board President Andrew Misiak said out of 13 DD board levies across the state — some requesting larger increases — Ashtabula County’s was the only one that failed Tuesday. The board had a special meeting for leadership members Wednesday in advance of a formal board meeting next week.

“Right now, we’re just trying to swallow this pill,” he said Wednesday. “We’re really just looking through all our programs — not looking to cut anything — yet just kind of looking at possible funding options for next year.”

Board Superintendent Anne Zeitler thanked those who assisted with the board’s levy campaign, and the voters who supported the measure.

She noted the proposal faced heavy opposition across precincts in Geneva and Geneva-on-the-Lake as well as Geneva, Harpersfield and Austinburg townships, which also rejected income tax increases for the city of Geneva and the Geneva Area City Schools on Tuesday. She suspected the DD levy was a collateral casualty of a “no new tax” climate.

“We had a good campaign. We had good feedback throughout the campaign. So it was kind of a surprise to us — a surprise to me, I guess,” she said. “We will continue to analyze, look forward, review our options and work on this together.”

The board oversees operations at Happy Hearts School and its sheltered workshop AshCraft Industries, both in Kingsville. It has been spending at a deficit since 2008 and projected it will run out of money next year.

The board eliminated 49 positions through attrition since 2004, and changed salary and benefit schedules for new hires, for a savings of about $26.2 million. It’s also begun replacing its bus fleet with more fuel-economic vans.

Zeitler said the board was relying on the levy to stave off cuts, as there are few, if any, funding avenues available outside a larger operating levy.

“Right now, we’ve accessed just about everything that’s available to us,” she said.

Orwell income tax

A measure to increase Orwell Village’s municipal income tax by .5 percent to a total 1.5 percent passed by a narrow margin — 146 votes to 140 (51-49 percent), still outside the margin for an automatic recount, according to the county Board of Elections.

The increase — the first since 1983 — is expected to generate an additional $400,000 for the village, which will keep operational spending flush and allow officials to set aside about $200,000 each year into a new capital budget, said village manager Joe Varckette.

“I’m very thankful to the voters,” he said. “Thankful that they listened to our message and recognized this is an issue that’s truly about our future. ... It’s going to enable us to do some positive things for the residents, as they deserve.”

Varckette noted Tuesday’s results don’t include provisional ballots — “we’re hopeful there aren’t that many,” he said. The Board of Elections reported Tuesday night it had yet to tally 193 provisional ballots across the county.

Sheffield Township

Voters approved both of the township’s issues — a 2.5-mill replacement and increase for road and bridge maintenance and a 2-mill replacement for fire and EMS services.

The increase passed with 54 percent of the vote, 185 votes to 155. Trustee Ken Kister said the increase, up from 1.5 mills, would create an additional about $32,000 in property tax revenue. The owner of a home valued at $100,000 will pay about $87 annually, starting next tax year.

The fire and EMS levy passed with 75 percent of the vote, 266 votes to 88. It will allow the township to contribute to its volunteer fire department for equipment and building costs, Kister said.

Trumbull Township

Replacement of a 3-mill township levy that’s been in place since before the current officials took office failed Tuesday with only 49 percent of the vote, 182 to 189 — a seven-vote margin.

The township would have received about $100,300 if the measure passed — about $61,000 more in gross than had they renewed the existing levy, said Fiscal Officer Marie Rohrbaugh. The replacement would have tied the levy revenue to more recent property values. Voters would not have paid more.

Jefferson Township

A 2-mill replacement levy measure for fire and EMS services passed with 64 percent of the vote, 275 votes to 154.

The township just renewed its contract with the village department for another five years, at $70,000 per year, said township trustee John Boczar. The replacement means an extra $25,000 for the township, he said. The owner of a home valued at $100,000 will pay $70 per year.

Plymouth Township

A 1.5-mill replacement levy measure for road and bridge maintenance passed with 67 percent of the vote, 407 votes to 198.

Fiscal Officer Maryann Stevenson said the replacement will bring in close to $58,000 if passed, up from the previous levy’s about $56,600.

The township maintains 29 miles of road with two full-time employees, trustee Kevin Presley told the Star Beacon earlier this month. He said trustees have in the past considered raising road and bridge millage, but decided against it.


This article has been reproduced for educational purposes only and appeared in the Ashtabula Star Beacon. The original story can be found at:

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