By LANCE MIHM
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
“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
“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
“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.”