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The Daily



12-02-03: St. Marys school board considers levy in March


ST. MARYS — St. Marys school board members were in agreement that an operating levy should be put on the March primary ballot, following a lengthy discussion at Monday’s special meeting.
In spite of the consensus, no formal vote was taken Monday.
About 70 school district residents attended and told board members what they felt the public would accept in a proposed operating levy. While members agreed an emergency property tax levy was the way to go, differing opinions on an amount led board members to hold off selecting a millage rate until the Dec. 10 meeting.
A resolution of necessity for an emergency levy must be filed by Dec. 12, and the resolution to proceed must be filed with the Auglaize County Board of Elections by Dec. 18.
Several people attending suggested possibly holding off on the levy until November so it could be pushed with voters.
“I think we need to consider going in November,” resident Bob Valentine said. “We need to get out and rally the residents on why this levy is needed.
However, board member-elect Rees McKee and current board members both agreed that March was the only option.
“We need money to operate the schools.,” McKee said. “We also are going to need to hire a superintendent to take Paul’s (Blaine) place in August, and we don’t want to throw this at his feet in August to try and pass this thing in November.”
“We also don’t want to sound like the little boy who cried wolf,” board member Darren Caywood said. “This money is needed. If we don’t go in March, people might get the idea the money wasn’t needed.”
While the majority agreed, opinions varied on an amount to be proposed, with anywhere from 5.9 mills to 12 mills being thrown out for suggestion.
“I suggest we go for the 6 mills,” board member Joyce Finke said. “That’s what Rees has been saying and he was elected. Evidently that is what people will go for.”
The school board is facing imminent cuts, but the amount of those cuts will depend on levy passage and the amount of the levy. School officials have not identified cuts, but have stated that the cuts would be substantial if a levy of any kind is not passed.
“A smaller levy combined with a list of cuts seems to make the most sense to people,” Blaine said.
The St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce completed a survey with 220 people responding. It indicated people were more apt to vote for an income tax rather than a property tax levy. Board member Grady Shaner agreed, saying most people responding to his questioning had been in favor of an income tax. But McKee disagreed.
“To counter the chamber’s survey, more of those I have talked to have been in favor of a property tax with containments,” McKee said. “Most also said they would not approve a levy without a sign of cost containments.”
Despite several questions from the audience, the board did not suggest possible cuts.
“Stating cuts is premature until we know if and how much is approved by the voters,” Blaine said.
Tax abatements for local companies also was an issue at the meeting.
“I think there is a general feeling that companies are not paying their fair share because of tax abatements,” Bob Valentine said.
Chamber of Commerce director Nick Van Schoyck argued about taking that route, however.
“You have to make things happen in the community,” Van Schoyck said. “Other places are offering them (tax abatements). If we don’t, the places will not come here or move elsewhere.”
Bill Cheslock, a guidance counselor at the high school, suggested that people offer suggestions instead of arguing points.
“I haven’t heard anyone stand up and say what they think the board should do,” Cheslock said. “We all have issues with this. Let’s get off of the sidelines. They (the school board) are asking for our input and we are not giving it. We need to give them some direction.”
Cheslock also said that if a levy is not passed, younger and more mobile teachers will look elsewhere for jobs for job security.
“We need to know what people will approve,” Blaine said. “We encourage all of you to tell everyone and get them here at the next board meeting and give their input.”


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