He doesn’t know what to say.
“I’m actually stunned,” said Southwest Local Schools Superintendent John Hamstra.
The school district had a levy on the ballot Tuesday, and it went down 2,425 votes to 1,811. Hamstra wasn’t expecting that. It would have paid for a new junior high building and a renovated high school.
“I’m still a little speechless,” Hamstra said. “As far as what’s next,” and then, he trailed off. “I don’t know…”
Tuesday was a tiny special election. There were only four issues on the ballot in Hamilton County, and three were renewals – for Mount Healthy, Elmwood Place police and Elmwood Place fire/EMS. All three renewals passed.
Southwest Schools was asking for a combined 4.45-mill levy that would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home in the district an extra $156 a year. The district tried for a levy in November 2015, and that one failed. So, they cut the amount in half, Hamstra said. They scaled back the project – putting elementary school decisions to another time – and he thought voters were on board.
He hosted open houses every Thursday to talk with whoever showed up.
There were building tours every Tuesday so people could see the need firsthand.
He did podcasts, wrote letters, and there were 55 people on the district’s social media team, he said, “putting out the facts.”
“We’re shocked,” he said. “… What do they want?”
It's odd, because, comparatively, Southwest homeowners have it easy. They pay the lowest rate in the county for schools, $715 a year per $100,000 home.
By comparison, the owner of a $100,000 home in the Cincinnati Public Schools district pays $1,424 a year, and school officials are asking for an extra $277.55 a year with a levy this fall. In Finneytown, top of the price list, the owner of a $100,000 home pays $1,909 a year for schools.
A few days ago, a 10-foot-by-10-foot chunk of plaster fell from one of the classroom ceilings at Southwest, Hamstra said. It’s summer, so no one was hurt.
“But if there were kids in that room at that time? That would not have been good," he said. "The buildings are not getting any younger, and the issues are not going away.
And the only people who care about voting in a special election in a sweltering Tuesday in August are people who don't want to see an extra dime given to public education, as evidenced by a vote that went down in flames by roughly 18 points. Meanwhile, I'd like to know how many businesses in Hamilton get nice tax breaks to, you know, avoid paying for things like school districts.
I bet every one of the people who voted against the levy thinks kids these days are pretty stupid, too. Meanwhile you have a baffled superintendent who honestly doesn't know why a school levy in the reddest part of the state would fail.
I'd laugh, but it's really kind of pathetic.