AKRON, Ohio - All sports could be eliminated from seven Akron high schools if voters don't approve a levy this November.
The Akron Board of Education voted unanimously on Wednesday to place a 7.9-mill operating levy on the ballot. If approved, the levy would cost the average homeowner approximately $15 a month.
Superintendent David James said cutting all sports would have to be considered because the district would be forced to slash up to $20 million from the budget.
"It'll be a tough one, but we've cut very deeply, I think. And we closed buildings, so that process will continue without the additional revenue," James said.
The district already trimmed $22 million and more than 200 positions, including 84 teachers. James said if the levy fails, more than 100 additional teachers could lose their jobs and more buildings may be closed.
"It will be very severe for our community," James said.
The Akron Public School district has already eliminated all sports at junior high schools. About 2,000 students currently play sports at Akron public high schools.
Samantha Sebree and Charletta Richardson are on the volleyball team at Firestone High school and they're heading into their junior year. Both are worried about the possibility of sports disappearing by the time they're seniors.
"It's just something for us to do. It really does keep some of us off the streets, because in the worst neighborhoods, sports is the outlet," Sebree said.
"I think that's not fair because for some people that play sports that's their way out. That's how they're getting into college," Richardson said.
A 5.5-mill levy in Akron failed last November by less than 200 vote. Despite the narrow margin, James knows a property tax levy is a tough sell these days.
Akronresident Bill Beach said he would probably vote against the levy.
"$15 a month is gas in the car or food on the table. We're getting taxed enough, I think, around here," Beach said.
However, James said passage of the levy is important for the urban school district's future.
"Drastic reductions in revenue threaten to undo years of progress for our district and our community," James said. "With this levy request, we will have to continue to trim the budget, but its passage will help strengthen Akron's economy and future."
Akrondoes not have "pay to play" for high school sports. James said the district would consider that option if the levy fails, but he added that many of the students wouldn't be able to afford paying for sports.
Some Akronites said they couldn't imagine Friday night football and all other high school sports going away.
"That would be horrible because if the kids don't have the sports, then they're going to go onto other stuff, drugs or whatever," said resident, Joe Eackelbary.
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