Lakota School District levy passes after continued push from supporters

HAMILTON, Ohio -- The fourth time appeared to be the charm for the Lakota School District levy Tuesday.

By a razor thin margin, voters passed the levy after three previous unsuccessful attempts. The levy passed by just 241 votes, but it does not  include 211 provisional ballots cast by voters in the school district. Those votes will likely even further narrow the margin and as such will most likely trigger a recount, county election officials said.

There were 13,488 votes in favor of the levy and 13,247 voted against it. The results are unofficial.

Lakota schools make up the second largest district in the Tri-State. The levy failed three times over the past four years, but the district continued to push for it's passing. In an effort to get the levy approved, Lakota Schools have lowered their annual spending to $20.8 million since 2010.

The proposal combined 2.0 mills, or $5 million, for permanent improvements and 3.5 mills, or $8.5 million, for operations. It will cost each taxpayer an additional $192 annually per $100,000 value of their home.

The fourth push for the levy started back in September , shortly after students headed into a new school year. Supporters wore t-shirts with "We Are Lakota" printed on the front.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for Lakota to grow,” said Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia. “It’s new programs, to modernize and get our technologies up.  We’re so excited and we’re so thankful to our community.”

Chairwoman of the Lakota levy campaign Libby Willms said with the drop in spending, students in the district were impacted, and it showed.

“The cuts are really starting to affect our kids, not just in participation but also in their education. This levy kind of gets us back on solid ground with being competitive—not by bringing everything back, but by looking forward,” she said.

For a long-time educator, passing the levy was a no-brainer.

Guidance counselor Rhonda Eisenhard said, "I think it's important for us older folks to make sure that our kids get the same quality education."

“It gives us tons of stability that we can move on,” said teacher John Severns. “We’re not worried about what we’re going to cut next and worry about educating kids.”

Residents in the area were on the other side too, fearful the levy would go to teachers' salaries rather than benefits for school kids.

Willms said teachers carry out a service to kids, and with any service industry, a bulk of a budget has to go towards paying workers.

“They really stepped up,” said Treasurer Jenni Logan. “They say that the investment in what we were offering was worth it and we are just thrilled.”

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