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01-29-04: Committee to knock on doors

School levy members decide to deliver info on property tax levy door to door


ST. MARYS — Members of the school levy committee and a handful of citizens decided Wednesday to use a door-to-door approach to help pass a 7.9-mill property tax levy in March.
The group met Wednesday in the McBroom Junior High School library to discuss strategy and policy and to recruit citizens to spread the word.
“We need to get one-on-one,” committee member Dave Huber said. “If we don’t do that, then the levy is done.”
“My concern is no one is coming to the meetings,” school guidance counselor Bill Cheslock said. “We are going to have to go to their turf. The last levy was defeated 70-30 (percentage), so many people voted based on rumors they heard. We are going to have to get out and talk to people.”
The committee agreed to concentrate on undecided voters as members felt “yes” or “no” voters already had made up their minds.
Committee chairman Ralph Wiley proposed a question and answer fact sheet on questions he thought were most commonly being asked.
“We can come up with question and answer sheets all day long, but it isn’t going to get us anywhere if they are not the questions being asked,” Wiley said.
Wiley said the public needed to be informed the levy is not for new school facilities.
A 1 percent income tax and 6.92-mill new facility levy were both defeated in November. The defeat of the operating levy is leading to massive cuts, which includes closing Moulton Elementary School and cuts in staffing.
The board faces even more cuts, including the closing of Noble Elementary School and the loss of busing to approximately 1,150 students, if the levy is defeated in March.
“People are viewing this as some of us trying to save our jobs,” said academy program director Dave Huber. “It needs to be the non-school employees that are out there pushing this.”
Tasks agreed on included putting up signs around town and supporting the levy with a steady but not overbearing influx of letters to the editor in local newspapers to educate voters on the levy. The committee will hand out fact sheets at heavily attended local places, such as supermarkets, banks, hospitals and sporting events.
Business manager Kurt Kuffner added that someone needed to be a “fireman” on the local Ridertown Web site, which has been popular with local citizens but also has been the site of sometimes incorrect information.
“It’s like trying to unring a bell,” Kuffner said. “We will need someone to keep an eye on it.”
Cheslock reminded the committee members that about 52 percent of St. Marys graduates do not go to a four-year college, and people need to realize the effect the cuts could have on vocational programs.
The board plans to meet every Wednesday until the March election.
“We need to make people realize that this is for operating expenses only,” Wiley said.
The proposed levy will generate about $1.8 million per year for five years if approved. That is about $300,000 less per year than the income tax levy that was defeated in November.


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