Vocational school levy not on May ballot

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lawrence County voters will not see a joint vocational school levy on the May primary ballot.

Thursday evening, the Lawrence County Board of Elections de-certified the levy because of a problem with the wording of the proposal.

According to an opinion from the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, the levy was described as a “renewal” tax for the purpose of permanent improvements. It should have been described as a “new” or “additional” levy because the career center’s old levy expired in January.

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Collins Career Center Superintendent Steve Dodgion said his treasurer, Dick Sketel, copied the language from the last time the levy was on the ballot, which listed the levy as a renewal levy.

But Dodgion said because the levy had expired in January, he had told to Sketel the levy had to be listed as a new or additional levy.

To be safe, they contacted the board of elections about it. Dodgion said someone at the elections office advised the levy was a renewal and the ballot language should reflect this. By the time of the Secretary of State’s office’s rejected the levy because of the improper language, it was too late to change the wording and get the levy ready for the ballot. Dodgion did not say who at the elections board gave the advice.

Board of Elections Director Cathy Overbeck said her staff does not give this kind of advice and the decision to reject the levy was made at the state level.

“It appeared to be fine. But it’s not our call. We don’t give legal advice,” Overbeck said. “They (those seeking a levy) submit it, we then submit it to the Secretary of State’s Office and it’s their call.”

Overbeck said her office received a communication from state officials on or about Feb. 25, advising the levy was being rejected.

The money for the levy would have been used to pay for maintenance on a $22 million 11,000 square-feet addition. The actual construction would be paid for mostly with state funds. The school board meets Monday evening and is likely to discuss whether to have a special election this summer to get voter approval for the levy or to wait until the November primary election.

“These things happen,” Dodgion said. “But we trust the voters will support the levy as they have in the past.”