Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Dream of support for Eastwood Local Schools levy still alive

Although voters in the Eastwood Local Schools district said "no" in November to a 5.8-mill levy, the dream of gaining enough local support for funding to build a new school is not dead yet.

Last week, the school board mailed surveys to registered voters in the district and set up another survey online to gauge whether residents might back a second attempt to secure a bond issue.

Board officials said they hope the survey will provide a clear picture of why the November levy failed, and that the information will help them decide whether to pursue another levy next year or give up an offer of matching funds from the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

Eastwood Schools superintendent Brent Welker said if the board does decide to ask again for a levy, it would likely be for a lesser amount. He said the plan for a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school would be modified.

"The community voted down our K-8 option, so at this point it doesn't make any sense to put a project like that back on the ballot," Mr. Welker said. "Right now we're not convinced that putting anything back on the ballot would make sense, but before we decide to return a multimillion-dollar option from the state of Ohio, we want to make sure that's where the community's at."

School board vice president Roger Bostdorff said he believes the main reason the levy lost in November is because people were worried about the economy, and also because some residents did not want to lose the elementary schools located within their communities.

The proposed school would have replaced Eastwood Middle School, Luckey Elementary, Webster Elementary, and Pemberville Elementary schools, and concentrated all of the district's students on a central campus.

A new school would save the district $350,000 a year in operating costs, Mr. Bostdorff said. That's partly because the existing elementary buildings are old and cost a lot to maintain, he added.

"If we don't pass a bond issue, there's going to have to be money invested in those three buildings to keep them up, keep them safe," Mr. Bostdorff explained.

Cutting back on expenses is of particular concern to the district right now. Although Eastwood's budget is currently running a surplus, the board is preparing for possible cuts to state education funding because of the economic downturn.

Mr. Welker said he is anticipating a 5 percent cut in state money to the district for this school year and the next. That would mean a loss of around $660,000 for the district, he calculated.

"We're just working through what we're going to do. Right now there's nothing formal or solidified," Mr. Welker said. "We've begun discussions with our administrative team and board, and will soon bring union leadership in to begin discussing where to make those cuts should we have to."

If cuts are made they could be painful, the superintendent warned.

That's because the district already made substantial cuts to its expenses in 2006, including the closure of Lemoyne Elementary school. He said school programs could be cut, but declined to give specifics.

"We're operating in a fairly lean manner," Mr. Welker explained. "It's kind of like, if you're really skinny and you've got to lose weight, you're going to lose muscle."

The district would not ask taxpayers for money to cover any cuts in funding, the superintendent assured.

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