Angry words were aimed Aug. 16 at one Lorain County JVS board member who has started publicly campaigning against a 0.75-mill levy sought by the vocational school.
Ayers Ratliff, who represents Wellington, drew criticism in a tense half-hour discussion by the board.
“This levy is not a cash grab,” said superintendent Glenn Faircloth, defending a November ballot question that, if successful, would generate $4.5 million per year through a property tax increase.
“The money cannot be used the line anyone’s pocket or for salaries,” he said. “This board wanted new money six years ago when I got here and I asked for a chance to take a look at the numbers first. Well, I’ve squeezed that lemon and I’ve squeezed it again. Great instructors here make our situation appear better than what it really is.”
Most board members agree the JVS needs to update its laboratory spaces, install sprinkler systems, make bus garage repairs, and pave its lots.
But Ratliff has been outspokenly against the tax increase, saying the school is asking for too much money.
Rex Engle, who represents Amherst on the board, was visibly upset at Ratliff.
“This is a 47-year-old building that’s not meeting 21st century standards,” he said. “We’ve pushed parking lot paving further and further back and we’re falling further and further behind in other areas. Ask our machinists and mechanics. If you really think this levy is too much money, you’re really not in favor of the JVS.”
Faircloth said the costs involved with equipping a trade laboratory aren’t comparable to the costs of a traditional high school classroom.
“Once you factor in desks, books, possibly a smartboard, you’re looking at $30,000 to $40,000 for a traditional classroom,” he said. “One of our IT or welding labs is easily going to get up around $1 million. One piece of welding equipment is going to be $250,000 alone. The JVS has a specific purpose, a specific square-footage, specific types of students, and is here to provide different types of training than traditional classrooms.”
Voters approved a 0.75-mill operational levy renewal for the JVS in 2016. Operational funds are used for expenses such as employee salaries and utilities but can’t be used for measures like building renovations, schools buses, lawnmowers, or textbooks.
Funds raised by permanent improvement levies go toward projects and purchases with a shelf life of five or more years such as building fixes, lot paving, and air conditioning upgrades.
Ratliff said the JVS levy would contribute to a further inequality between money received by the vocational school and other Lorain County districts.
“We’re not able to buy a new bus (in Wellington) this year and the county uses 365 buses for 41,000 students,” he said. “The JVS doesn’t run any buses to pick up kids. It’s also easier for the JVS to sell a tax increase to voters. We’d need 27.26 mills in Wellington to bring in $4.5 million a year. In Clearview they’d need 56.58 mills.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.