Want another surprising election result?
Voters in my part of northeast Ohio love to say how important manufacturing jobs are. But on Election Day, 55 percent of them rejected additional funding for a vocational high school that trains kids for manufacturing jobs, including some in the plastics industry.
It was the first time in 52 years that the Auburn Vocational School District — which operates Auburn Career Center — was asking for additional funding. Fifty-two years without a levy request! Most voters would have paid less than $10 per year in additional property taxes.
The career center is located in Concord Township, about 30 miles east of Cleveland, and offers career training to students in 11 school districts, mainly in Lake and Geauga counties. Training is offered in a wide variety of fields ranging from advanced manufacturing and automotive technology to healthcare and emergency medical services.
Michelle Rodewald — who coordinates business partnerships for the center — said that the district has worked with many plastics firms. It currently has an internship program with Mercury Plastics, an extruder and fabricator in Middlefield. The center also has worked with plastic shapes maker Cast Nylons of Willoughby.
The rejected levy would have been in place for only five years, but would have raised more than $1.1 million for permanent improvements to the district's facilities and programs.
“I have to admit my disappointment with the failure of the levy,” District Superintendent Maggie Lynch told the Lake County News-Herald. “However, I am so grateful for the amount of votes that we did get, which affirms Auburn Career Center's efforts to prepare career and technical education students for the workforce.”
She added that the need to repair the career center remains, and that the district now will be forced to continue to spend limited resources from its general budget.
“The timeline for our repairs that would have taken five years will now take at least 15 years, to complete the replacement of our roof, HVAC units and handle emergency repairs as they arise,” Lynch said. “All attempts will be made to not compromise our students' learning experiences.”
So what does this mean? Seems like a clear signal that in this manufacturing-heavy part of northeast Ohio, voters want manufacturing to recover … but they want someone else to pay for it.
Esposito is a Plastics News senior reporter based in Ohio. Follow him on Twitter at @fesposito22.