SEBRING, Ohio (WYTV) – On Tuesday, a special election took place in Mahoning County for a Sebring Local Schools levy renewal. Voters failed to pass it, meaning the school district could lose out on $500,000 in taxpayer money next year.
Taxpayers voted “no” on a one percent income tax renewal. The election was very close, with a difference of only 39 votes.
“There was some confusion. Even though we had information out there saying it was a renewal, there was still a lot of people who thought it was a brand new levy and we were asking them for more money,” said Superintendent Toni Viscounte.
Mitch Scott, co-owner of El Sabor Café in Sebring, says he usually votes in elections but didn’t on Tuesday.
“I didn’t know there was a special election yesterday,” he said.
He went to Sebring Schools growing up and voted for the levy renewal last November, which also failed.
“You really only pay attention to the [elections] every four years,” said Allen Flowers, who also voted for the renewal last fall.
Flowers and Scott are in the majority because four out of every five registered voters in the district taxed for Sebring Schools did not vote on Tuesday.
“It was a pretty low voter turnout for this but it was a special in August, so those are usually pretty low voter turnouts,” said Joyce Kale-Pesta with the Mahoning County Board of Elections.
She says the election in November, thanks to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, will have a much higher turnout. Kale-Pesta says Sebring Schools can put the renewal on the ballot again in November if they change the language slightly.
While the district does plan on asking voters to renew the tax in November, it is already looking to cut expenses in case the levy fails. Students could potentially lose field trips, school clubs and extra-curricular activities. Bus service could also be eliminated for high schoolers.
“I don’t want to have to cut the programs for the students. They’re the ones that hurt when the money isn’t there,” Viscounte said.
The school board will start deciding what to cut at their meeting on Monday.
She says cuts had to be made at the end of the last school year. Eight contracts were not renewed for administrators, teachers and aides.
To prepare for the November election, the school will recruit more people to get information out about the levy renewal and distribute voter registration forms.