Enquirer News Update   -   Updated 6:40 p.m.

Fairfield levy passes

By Michael Clark
Enquirer staff writer

FAIRFIELD - Voters here ended Fairfield's streak of four consecutive levy failures after one of the most contentious local campaigns in Ohio.

Meanwhile, voters in Lakota schools - the eighth-largest district in the state - barely rejected a 7.7-mill levy.

Of the seven Butler County school districts with tax issues on the Tuesday ballot, Fairfield, Talawanda and Monroe's 5.95-mill renewal, which involves no tax increase, won voter approval. With 100 percent of the county's unofficial vote reporting early todayFairfield's school levy won by 56 to 44 percent.

School tax issues also were defeated in Edgewood, Madison and Ross, according to unofficial results.

Fairfield Schools officials were jubilant after voters approved their 4.9-mill operating levy.

"I attribute this to the community finally coming together," said Fairfield Superintendent Bob Farrell during a celebration by pro-levy supporters.

The operating levy, which would raise $6.4 million annually, will raise school property tax by $150 for a $100,000 home.

Fairfield's levy campaign was unusually volatile and involved reports to police of property crimes, verbal harassment, destruction of political signs and public pleading from Fairfield's mayor for civility in the Butler County community of 42,000.

Farrell credited an unusual labor agreement in the final days of the campaign to freeze for one year the cost-of-living raises of Fairfield teachers as a crucial development. "The teacher contract was huge. People in the community told us they were really impressed with that," said Farrell.

Another levy loss would have forced the 9,500-student district to make additional cuts of $4.7 million in its annual operating budget of $65.3 million and lay off 88 teachers and seven administrators. The district was also considering cuts in academic programs and personnel that would lower the district to state minimum standards for the first time in its history.

In Lakota Schools - the eighth largest district in Ohio - a 7.7-mill combination levy that would have raised $12.4 million annually for day-to-day operations and provide a total of $80.3 million for construction lost by 400 votes, 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent. The 400-vote margin will likely qualify the tax issue vote for an automatic recount.

The property tax increase would have paid for the construction of two elementary schools, a second freshman school and to expand Lakota East and West high schools. Taxes would have increased about $236 annually on a $100,000 house.

Edgewood's 6.9-mill operating levy lost 62 to 38 percent. The district was seeking a new school tax after failing wiht voters in March and August. The operating levy would have brought $2.5 million annually to the district's general fund and increase taxes about $211 on a $100,000 house.

E-mail mclark@enquirer.com