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The Daily



10-06-03: School officials upset over small turnout


ST. MARYS — A thin turnout Sunday for a public meeting on two school levies to be decided Nov. 4 left organizers both disappointed and wondering where residents stand on the two issues.
A team of school administrators, board members and a representative from Firestone, Jaros and Mullin (FJM), the engineering firm handling planning for the new school, were all present at the Eagles Hall meeting but were given few questions from the audience.
Levy committee member Ron Gorby said, “The questions asked were good solid questions that I thought we gave good answers to. But some of the questions I thought would come up did not.”
After a short presentation of the content of the two levy issues, the floor was opened to questions from the public. The first question from resident Kathy Thistlethwaite addressed the thin attendance. Only 58 people attended the meeting.
“We need this so badly,” Thistlethwaite said. “The people that aren’t here are the ones that concern me. We need to reach everybody. What are we going to do to sell this?”
Levy committee member Tami Sanford replied by saying that flyers have been sent out with detailed information about the levy.
“The Ohio Revised Code states that a 1⁄2 mill maintenance levy to maintain buildings is required so that buildings are properly cared for,” said resident Kraig Noble. “Will we be asked again for more money if this is passed?”
“That has already been taken into consideration and would be covered with the levy,” superintendent Paul Blaine said. “Additional money would not be needed.
Resident Bill Kellermeyer asked if the present high school was in such bad shape, why would adult education and administration offices be moved to the high school after the new school was built.
“Our first priority is not putting the administration in modern offices,” Blaine said.
Resident Joel Burke asked about cost overruns, and business manager Kurt Kuffner responded by saying money was planned to be set aside for change orders.
“We have worked very hard to keep change orders to an absolute minimum,” Kuffner said.
Resident Don Dietz asked if extra curricular activities would be cut if the levy fails. “It is critically important to our total program now that operating levy passes,” Blaine said. “We can not continue our current curricular program if we do not approve the levy.”
Blaine added that if the operating levy was approved and the building levy fails, the school could maintain current programs but not improve on them.
The school board voted earlier this year to seek a 1 percent income tax levy to generate about $2.1 million per year and a 6.92 mill bond levy for new buildings under the Ohio School Facility Commission’s (OSFC) Expedited Local Partnership Program (ELPP) that will generate $27 million.
Sanford told the group that based on projections that flatline state education money going to the school through 2007, the school would incur a deficit of $108,562 in 2005 and see the projected deficit balance extend to $4.06 million in 2007.
If the operating levy fails, the school would be forced by state requirements to make cuts so the budget does not end up in the red, he explained.
Sanford said any income that is taxable in the state would be subject to the permanent 1 percent tax. Voters would be required to fill out an annual income tax form. Adjusted gross income from a taxpayer’s Ohio form provides the taxable amount.
Gorby presented the tentative plan for building should the school bond levy pass. Construction of the high school would begin in 2004, and the school would open in 2006. Seventh and eighth graders would then move to the present high school building, fifth and sixth graders would attend what is now McBroom Junior High, third and fourth graders at West School and kindergarten through second grade would go to East School. Moulton and Noble schools would be closed and the administration would maintain offices in the old high school.
The 6.92-mill levy proposal includes a 4.1-mill extension on the present levy passed in 1997 for renovations to East and West Schools and 2.82 new mills. Gorby said it would put the community in a good situation because it would get a new school while only seeing 2.82 new mills, or about $98.70 in new taxes annually based on a $100,000 home. The income tax levy would cost a person making $40,000 per year with three exemptions about $364 per year.
“The income tax levy was decided on because it gives the school more financial stability,” Sanford said. “ Income taxes go up with inflation while property taxes do not.
“I am a bit confused about the turnout,” Gorby said after the meeting. “I don’t know if people have made their decisions already or if people have other things to do. This thing could go 75 percent one way or the other. I simply don’t know what people are thinking. We were prepared to answer all their questions and we had the people present to do it.”


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