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School Levy Defeated in Close Vote

School Levy Defeated in Close Vote

By Gabriel Brison-Trezise

The Mount Vernon School Districts proposed new operating levy failed on Tuesday by a margin of just 295 votes, or 2.2 percent.

I was disappointed that it didnt pass. I was appreciative of the efforts of a lot of people to try to get it to pass, said District Superintendent Steve Short. The district has tried three times since 2010 to pass a new operating levy in order to recoup at least some of the $2 million it has lost in revenue over the last two years, according to Short. Weve not added a levy for new money since 1996, Short reiterated.

We used all the campaign strategies we could to communicate why we needed to pass this levy, said Mo Helser, levy chair of the Committee to Support Our Local Schools, in an email.

The proposed levy failed by a vote of 6,566 for to 6,861 against.

Helser had previously expressed confidence the levy would pass. Im very optimistic. I think being a presidential election, we have [high voter turnout] in our favor, she said before the levy went to vote. While more than twice as many individuals voted on this levy as on the last proposed new operating levy, the increase in voters ultimately did not push For the Tax Levy past the post.

Helser added she hopes parent-teacher organizations and other parent volunteer groups will help sustain extracurricular activities amid the cuts the district will have Helser added that she hopes parent-teacher organizations and other parent volunteer groups will help sustain extracurricular activities amid the cuts the district will have to make. Short stated that extra, non-mandated programs, such as elementary school music, art, and physical education, as well as Advanced Placement and other upper-level high school courses, are among the offerings the district is considering cutting.

Assistant Professor of Political Science Michelle Mood said she and her husband, Associate Professor of Political Science Stephen Van Holde, are exploring the possibility of moving away from Knox County.

[We] are looking into the services provided in Delaware County, so we are prepared and can make our decisions once we know what will be cut from our local schools, she said.

Mood fears the no vote on the levy may force cuts in the services for special-needs children, like Moods son, who currently attends Wiggin Street Elementary.

Mount Vernon residents did approve an emergency, five-year, $1.38 million levy in May 2011. The annual funding this levy provides the schools, however, is not sufficient for the district to reinstate high-school busing or any of the host of other programs it has recently cut.

Both Short and Mood anticipate the districts college-bound students will begin having fewer curricular and extracurricular opportunities and thus more difficulty getting admitted to good colleges.

The state says the only way we can get the new [operating funds] is through the levy, Short said. He also noted the districts permanent improvement levy, which provides funding to fix lights, air conditioners and other building fixtures, is up for renewal soon.

The Mount Vernon City Schools performance index, a standardized measure of student achievement, is just slightly higher than it was last year and is, according to Short, the highest it has ever been.

Short credits the great group of people working at the schools for the districts continued excellence through recent rounds of cuts. Mood and Helser, however, expect the levys failure will result in a decline in student opportunities and school quality.

With Short not ruling out cuts to any non-state-required programs, their concern might be well-founded.

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