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Nov. 9 Voting Is Wise Plan

Loss of $18 million a year would devastate public schools in Ohio County. It is difficult to envision how they could meet even state minimum standards without the money. Certainly, education quality would plummet.

Ohio County Board of Education members decided Tuesday to play it safe on that money. That is the prudent course of action.

For as long as most people can remember, local voters have been very supportive of public schools. One way of showing that has been overwhelming votes in favor of so-called “excess levies” for education. They raise about $18 million a year, a substantial portion of the school district’s $66 million budget.

Excess levies must be renewed by voters every five years. The current authorization expires June 30, 2020. Sometime before then, the issue must be put before voters.

One option would be to include the question on the May 2020 primary election ballot. That would cost the board of education little or nothing.

But, in the unlikely but possible event that voters for some reason rejected the levy, that would leave the school system without enough time to schedule another referendum on it before the June 30, 2020, expiration. Even if voters did reauthorize the levy on the second try, some revenue from it — at the rate of about $1.5 million a month — could be lost.

It is virtually inconceivable that Ohio County voters would say no to the levy. The last time it was reauthorized, approval came in a 4,695-1,690 vote. And last year, voters approved issuance of $42.2 million in bonds for a big school improvement project.

Still, as we pointed out earlier this month, there is a possibility, however small, that some voters could balk at the excess levy.

Board members this week agreed to hold a special referendum on the question, on Nov. 9. That will cost about $75,000.

But if the outcome of that voting is negative, school officials still would have plenty of time to try again, perhaps with a more intensive voter education campaign, before the current tax rate expires.

Seventy-five thousand dollars certainly could be put to good use in Ohio County public schools. Board members were right to view the expenditure as insurance against a major fiscal problem next year, however.

We look forward to the Nov. 9 referendum — and another reminder of Ohio County voters’ unflagging support for public schools.

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