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Cincinnati Voters Approve Two Levies, Staving Off $10 Million in Budget Cuts

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Cincinnati residents came to the rescue of their schools last week, passing two tax levies described as vital to the district's financial health.

The Nov. 7 election results mean the district can restore many of the personnel and programs already cut from the budget this year. A defeat would have forced district officials to cut an additional $10 million from the district's $300 million budget.

"These funds will allow us to continue the reforms we've begun," Superintendent Michael J. Brandt said in a statement. "After this strong show of support," he added, "we are more determined than ever to make every Cincinnati school work."

More than two-thirds of voters approved the renewal of an operating levy that will raise $19 million a year. A slimmer majority--just over half-- supported a separate, new levy that will bring in an additional $26 million a year for the 50,000-student district.

The infusion of new money comes after a year in which district officials have had to trim $31 million in spending, slashing magnet-school programs and a host of others. District officials said they would use part of the money to reopen secondary school libraries, restore high school counselors to their jobs, and recall some teachers and their assistants.

Slightly more than half the operating levies on ballots in about 120 Ohio districts passed.

Key Levy Votes

Elsewhere around the nation in last week's balloting:

  • Residents of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina passed a whopping $217 million bond issue to try to catch up with that district's facilities needs.

About 72 percent of voters approved the measure. A $304 million bond issue had been defeated at the polls last spring.

"We were hoping this would pass, but we were working our butts off to get it to pass," said David W. Hains, a spokesman for the district.

The 88,000-student district has been growing at the rate of about 3,600 students a year. It has been forced to set up more than 360 portable classrooms outside its 125 schools.

  • Denver voters overwhelmingly defeated a tax hike that would have provided the district with about $30 million annually. District officials had pledged to use the money to finance a reform plan tied to the district's efforts to end busing for desegregation.

    About 60 percent of voters rejected the measure. School officials bemoaned the levy's defeat as signaling a lack of public confidence in their school system.

    In response to the levy's failure, Denver's school board president, Aaron Gray, called for a thorough review of district operations to trim any waste and help stave off an expected budget shortfall of $6 million to $12 million next spring, out of the district's overall budget of $337 million.

    Mayor Wellington E. Webb, who had strongly backed the levy, announced after its defeat that he was creating a new Cabinet position to promote education and help build support for the 63,000-student district.

  • Several other Colorado districts, including many in the Denver suburbs, were successful in winning voter approval for bond issues to pay for school construction to keep pace with rapid growth. Twenty-six districts had a statewide total of $526 million in bond issues on the ballot; more than two-thirds passed them, raising a statewide total of nearly $337 million.

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