Posted: 10:12 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013

One Warren County tax levy defeated, two supported

By Denise G. Callahan

Staff Writer

LEBANON —

Warren County voters gave the nod to two of three tax levy requests on the Aug. 6 special election ballot.

The Franklin City Schools continuing 7.92-mill operating levy request was defeated with 62 percent voting against the tax measure to 38 percent in favor, according to unofficial results from the Warren County Board of Elections. It would have generated nearly $3.1 million in additional revenue annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $242.55 more a year.

Resident Tadd Dieringer may have had a hand in the levy defeat. He called school officials “sneaky” because apparently election signs did not start appearing around town until Sunday, and the signs were a generic “support our schools” variety and didn’t mention Tuesday’s election.

Board of Elections Director Brian Sleeth said he received many calls on Monday from Franklin residents wanting to know why they didn’t know an election was taking place.

Dieringer said when he got wind of the special election, he told everyone he could about it.

“There were many people who did not know about the levy until I told them,” he said. “I’m hoping I told enough people who told enough people, that we got a decent turnout and actually had a fair vote.”

The county special election only drew 11 percent of the registered voters. Prior to the final outcome of the election, Dieringer said he was against the tax hike, especially since he doesn’t know what the schools need it for and because officials seemed to have wanted to keep it a secret.

“I hope it didn’t pass. But if we have a majority of registered voters actually participate and vote and it passes, then it’s the voice of the people,” he said. “If you only have five percent of the voters vote, and all of those people are voting because they are affiliated with the school board, that’s not really the voice of the people. And that doesn’t meet my definition of a democracy.”

Levy chairman and board Vice Chair Chris Sizemore said the signs did go out later than he had hoped but the schools tried many ways — such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the Chamber of Commerce and visiting senior centers — to get the word out. A flier would have cost about $2,000 and that was beyond the campaign’s meager, privately funded budget, he said.

“We had a limited amount of funds and we tried to make the best use of it we could…,” Sizemore said.

Sizemore added he is very frustrated with the failure because Franklin schools have made great strides but funding has dried up from the state and federal governments, making it difficult to run the district.

“We’re going to have to regroup and make some tough decisions,” he said.

The school board anticipated the measure might not pass so in June it passed legislation to get the levy request back on the Nov. 5 general election.

Meanwhile, voters overwhelming supported the Lebanon City Schools request — 68 percent to 32 percent — for a five-year permanent improvement levy that will not raise taxes. The 2-mill levy generates about $1 million annually and costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $61.25 a year.

School Board member Esther Larson called the election results “fantastic.” Superintendent Mark North said the passage will allow the district to take care of business as usual.

“It’ll allow us to provide the necessities…,” he said. “I’m very, very grateful for our community and (it) continuing to support the schools. Lebanon has a tremendous history of supporting their schools.”

Voters in Deerfield Twp. were asked to support a 4-mill police replacement and additional levy. Unofficial final vote totals show the measure passed by a vote of 67 percent to 33 percent. The new levy will bring in about $4 million to pay for the Warren County Sheriff’s outpost. The owner of a $100,000 home now pays $71.89 a year in annual taxes with the current effective rate of the levy. Under the new levy, that amount will increase $50.60 to $122.49.

The county has slowly reduced the number of county sheriff’s deputies it funded for the township and now the township is solely responsible for the full contract with the county. Township Administrator Bill Becker said they were disappointed with the low turnout but grateful for the outcome.

“We’re happy with the outcome and now we’ll move on,” he said. “We’ll provide the service, Deerfield is committed to police service and we’ll provide it.”

Percy Nelson cast his vote at the King of Kings Lutheran Church in Deerfield and proudly stuck his “I voted” sticker on his shirt. He said he is very pleased with the police service his township provides and his sense of civic duty brought him to the poll.

“I believe we should always vote; I believe it’s my civic duty,” he said. “I got a flier saying the police department wanted me to support their levy initiative, so I came out and voted to support it. They do an excellent job for me, and they are not that expensive.”


Special election results

Franklin City School District

For the tax levy 751 38 percent

Against the tax levy 1,235 62 percent

Lebanon City School District

For the tax levy 2,380 68 percent

Against the tax levy 1,136 32 percent

Deerfield Township

For the tax levy 795 67 percent

Against the tax levy 396 33 percent

Source: Warren County Board of Elections

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