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Voters give vocational school funds

Voter approval of a 0.

Wednesday, November 03, 1999

Voter approval of a 0.5-mill improvement levy became a victory Tuesday not only for Collins Career Center, but also for future high school and adult vocational students, center leaders said.

"We want our students in the area to be able to compete and have the advantages that skilled people in the area have," said Truman Noe, assistant superintendent.

"The levy will allow the latest knowledge and skills to be available to them by improving the campus, providing new programs and equipment."

The five-year renewal of the school’s permanent improvement levy passed by a 349-vote margin – 7,873 for to 7,524 against.

Noe and vocational superintendent Perry Walls camped out Tuesday night in the Lawrence County Educational Services Center’s third floor courthouse offices, watching the vote tally.

The vote turned against the school levy early in the evening, but changed later as more precincts came in from outlying areas of Lawrence County.

Voters in Coal Grove, Athalia and Ironton, and those in some Upper and Perry precincts approved. Other areas, like the Bradrick precincts, Elizabeth and Decatur rejected the levy.

Everyone was optimistic but feared that if the levy failed then critical updates to programs in areas like computer technology would not occur, which would result in "strong adjustments," Walls said.

The center operates on a separate levy while the improvement levy covers the physical part of the school, Walls said.

"We’ve never gone to the public for more," he said. "As the end of the year nears, the balance in the general fund gets smaller and smaller and we rely on a levy like this to help maintain the facility and keep quality programs."

This fall, vocational school board members, staff, volunteers from every part of the county and others campaigned vigorously – even working the polls in Tuesday’s downpours – to make sure the levy passed.

"We tried to get the message across that this was a renewal and would not be used for salaries," Noe said.

But the campaigning became difficult as some opposition to the property tax itself surfaced, he said.

Property owners, especially those retired or without children, voiced concern about bearing the brunt of the tax burden for public schools and schools like Collins Career Center.

With a slogan of ‘It’s not new, just renew,’ center officials called voters’ attention to programs that teach technical trades to 450 secondary school students and about 500 adult students, and preached the levy only funds physical improvements to the school.