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Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Celina school board ponders another levy attempt

By Amy Kronenberger
CELINA - School board members are considering the next step after a bond levy for a school construction project failed at the November election.
Board members during a meeting Monday agreed they would look into the reasons why voters rejected the issue before placing it on a future ballot. They will consider altering the project and lowering the ballot issue.
"I think we need to spend some time looking at the demographics of the vote and try to find out why," board member Matt Gilmore said.
The 33-year, $27.7 million bond levy to build a new elementary building and demolish East and West failed by nearly 68 percent. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission has committed $8.1 million to the project.
The total cost - $35.8 million - included $18.8 million in state-approved building cost and $17 million in locally funded initiatives. LFIs, or additional work the state would not cover, included additional classroom space so the fourth grade could remain in the elementary (the state has said the fourth grade could fit in the intermediate building); a second gymnasium at the elementary; air conditioning at all district buildings; a fixed-seat auditorium at the high school; and a contingency fund to cover possible overages.
"Obviously, we should look at options - should we take something off; should we take everything off?" Gilmore said of the LFIs.
Gilmore suggested waiting for the recommendation of the levy campaign committee.
Board member Amy Hoyng said she was shocked the levy was defeated by so much.
"What's disappointing to me is we gave every opportunity during the entire process for the community to tell us what they wanted," she said. "We asked them to come to meetings, we asked for feedback, and I myself never heard anything. Nobody showed up for any of the open houses; nobody showed up for anything."
Board member Connie Paulus said she believed the levy failed because the board and the school didn't effectively campaign and energize the community.
"I was shocked too," board member Cindy Piper said. "But I think it came down to money at the booth."
Piper also said the board needs to put more effort into educating the community.
Board member Ken Fetters said people told him they didn't want more debt and they didn't trust the board and school officials.
"People only need one ... reason to vote no, but they need 10 reasons to vote yes," he said.
The board will discuss how to proceed after engaging the public for feedback. They likely will put some version of the levy on the May ballot. The deadline to file for the May primary is Jan. 7.
To receive state funding, the district must pass a levy by September. After that time, the district would have to reapply to the state, which would reassess the district and determine a new funding amount.
Also at Monday's meeting, superintendent Jesse Steiner said he would set up a meeting with the Celina Education Association and the Ohio Association of Public School Employees to discuss the school's operating budget and what cuts could be made to avoid a deficit.
Treasurer Mike Marbaugh in October presented the most recent five-year financial forecast for the district. He predicted a $2.4 million deficit by the end of fiscal year 2015 (June 30, 2015).
Steiner said he would focus on retirements and cutting through attrition.
"I could get out the red pen and just start cutting, but I don't think that's good for the district," he said. "So, I would like to form a committee and work on a plan that works for everyone."
In other action, the board,
• accepted a $3,550 donation from the athletic boosters to the athletic department to purchase new wrestling mats.
• accepted a $1,000 donation from the Cooper Family Foundation to the scholarship fund for scholarships.
• approved a change of contracts for various personnel.
• approved the retirement of Duretta Beckstedt, library aide at East, after 22 years of service.
• approved the retirement of Margie Fennig, secretary of the treasurer, after 25 years of service.
• approved two sixth-grade overnight field trips to Glen Helen Nature Preserve on April 30-May 3 and May 14-17.
• hired Lisa Sheppard to teach adult classes for Workflow One at $24 per hour. Classes will be held throughout the 2012-2013 school year.
• approved residential construction technology and practice, senior automotive technology and junior automotive technology as Tri Star Career Compact classes.
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