Cincinnati Levy Passes; Detroiters Back Elected Board

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Cincinnati voters gave the city’s public schools a decisive victory Tuesday, approving a tax-levy renewal despite opposition from influential business and religious leaders. The levy, the renewal of a tax that generates $65.2 million annually for schools, or roughly 15 percent of the district’s budget, garnered the support of 59 percent of the voters.

“We had tremendous grassroots support,” said Jan Leslie, who managed the levy campaign for the 39,000-student district. The steady rain on Nov. 2 didn’t derail the effort, she said. “We had volunteers coming in soaked to the skin.”

But voters in Cleveland soundly defeated, by 55 percent to 45 percent, a tax-levy increase that would have restored teaching jobs and academic programs. The 67,000-student district had a tough sell trying to convince taxpayers in one of the nation’s most impoverished cities to pay more property taxes for schools.

Without the $68 million generated by the tax increase, the district won’t be able to restore school bus service to some students, rehire laid-off teachers, and restore extracurricular activities, including baseball and soccer, district officials said.

In Detroit, meanwhile, a ballot measure that would have given Democratic Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick the authority to nominate a chief executive officer for the schools was rejected, 64.5 percent to 35.5 percent. The measure would have given the CEO authority over academic and financial decisions, relegating the elected school board to an advisory role. Instead, the 151,000-student district will have an elected, 11-member school board in 2006.

Fifty-two percent of voters in Oregon’s Multnomah County rejected a ballot measure that would have repealed a three-year, 1.25 percent personal-income tax increase that Portland-area voters approved last year for schools, social services, and public-safety programs.

In the 113,000-student Pinellas County, Fla., school district, which includes St. Petersburg, 64 percent of the voters approved a property-tax increase that will generate $26 million, most of which will be used to boost teachers' salaries.

And in San Francisco, voters rejected, by 51 percent to 49 percent, a measure that would have permitted noncitizens to vote in local school board elections.

Assistant Editor Catherine Gewertz and Staff Writer John Gehring contributed to this report.

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