News Column

Middletown Schools awaits word on bond issue

May 20, 2014

By Michael D. Pitman, Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio

May 20--BUTLER COUNTY -- The Butler County Board of elections will not have an official final results today because 16 provisional ballots -- five in Middletown -- must be remade Wednesday.

The official run of the May 6 primary election began shortly after 9 a.m. today.

Of the 308 provisional ballots, 292 were scanned in today at the board of elections office on Princeton Road in Hamilton. The remaining 13 ballots must be remade and approved by the board Wednesday. The official run of the electronic votes cast on election day and through early voting will be counted Wednesday.

Unofficial elections results from the May 6 primary election show the Middletown City Schools bond issue and 0.26-mill permanent improvement levy passing by total of 18 votes -- up by 50 votes in Butler County and down by 32 votes in Warren County. And with potential 61 uncounted votes -- 53 in Butler County and potentially eight in Warren County -- an unofficial Election Day win could flip-flop into an official election loss, and with it millions of dollars in state funding.

Superintendent Sam Ison declined to talk in detail about the possibilities of what could happen today.

"I'm happy the process is moving forward toward the official certification of results and grateful for all the votes in support of the district," he said.

At stake is $40 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission. Middletown will receive that money only if it can pass the $55 million bond issue to serve as a match. That collective $95 million would raze the 1923-built middle school on Girard Avenue, build a new middle school on the grounds of the high school on Breiel Boulevard and make upgrades to the high school.

If the levy does not pass, the district would lose out on this funding from the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission and go to the back of the line in attempts to get additional funding.

The Butler County Board of Elections on Monday validated 308 of 344 provisional ballots cast in the primary election. Six of the 59 provisional ballots from Middletown were rendered invalid, according to the Board of Elections. None of the 21 uncounted absentee ballots that came in after Election Day but postmarked on or before May 5 were from Middletown.

There are six uncounted provisional and two uncounted absentee ballots in Warren County, and the validity of those ballots will be determined today.

Today, Butler County elections employees began counting the 41,000 ballots cast in the May primary, and the board will meet Wednesday to certify its election. On Thursday, Warren County elections employees will count the 22,000-plus ballots cast in the primary and the board will meet that day to certify that county's election.

If the success or failure of the Middletown election issue falls within a half-percent, the Ohio Secretary of State will order an automatic recount that must be conducted five days after. If the recount is ordered Friday, the Butler and Warren county boards of elections can conduct the recount on May 28.

Ashley Baumgarten, a Middletown resident and opponent of the bond issue and tax levy, said, "Hopefully this will fail. I don't want the school to be demolished. That's part of our history. I think it's totally asinine (to say) kids will learn better in a newer building. That strategy for the campaign is ridiculous."

While she said she's a "firm believer" in doing what's best for the children of Middletown, "I want this to fail because kids can be taught anywhere."

Middle school principal Michael Valenti previously told the Journal-News the school, which houses 830 students in grades seven and eight, is frequently in need of repairs, and is "not a healthy situation" for the students. District officials said it will cost less to build a new middle school than to repair the existing school.


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Source: Hamilton Journal News (OH)