The citizens of Dayton voted by a 154-vote margin Tuesday to raise public school taxes for the first time since 1971.
Voters in Dayton, where court-ordered school busing was instituted in 1977, had rejected six prior property tax increase requests along racial lines. White districts voted against tax hikes and black districts supported them.
The passage of the levy of 9.94 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation, which increases taxes about $125 on a $40,000 house and will raise $13.5 million a year for the district, comes at a time when real estate taxes nationwide are beginning to creep up after five years of tax revolts.
In California, where the citizens' movement to cut back real estate tax growth triumphed with the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, state and local officials now say the anti-tax fervor has begun to subside as public services have been caught in a financial crunch.
Here in Dayton, the school tax levy finally passed after a massive media campaign by a pro-levy group, Citizens for Dayton's Future.
The campaign, which cost $122,000, was run by a Columbus-based political consultant. It stressed that better schools mean higher property values, that the city--already suffering 11 percent unemployment--would lose potential jobs from companies concerned about its educational system and that the school district would lose local control if it were forced to continue borrowing from the state.
Ohio does not permit school districts to go bankrupt, so the Dayton school district has been borrowing from the state to balance its budget.
The levy will be used to repay $3.1 million in state money and interest loaned to balance the 1982 budget.
Income from the levy will allow the Dayton school district to balance its 1983 budget without borrowing another $6.2 million the state has authorized. The district has already eliminated 215 positions--most of them teaching posts--this year.
Florence Apple, head of the Dayton Tax Rebellion of Ohio Inc., the only known organization opposed to the levy, said her group would ask for a recount. The final tally was 18,598 to 18,444 votes, with about 35 percent of registered voters going to the polls. A 21 percent turnout is typical for a June primary election.
School Superintendent Bernard A. Hatch said that if the levy had failed, the district would have balanced its books by borrowing the $6.2 million from the state, delaying a $2.7 million payroll and reducing maintenance spending by $2.7 million.
Even with the passage of the levy, the school district will be unable to recall about 100 laid-off personnel.
Dayton schools have lost more than 40 percent of their enrollment since the NAACP filed suit for desegregation in 1972. About 58 percent of the school district's 32,087 students are black. Twelve years ago, 42 percent of the system's 55,041 pupils were black.
The city has also undergone white flight. About 42,000 whites moved from the city during the 1970s, while black population increased by 1,000.