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Published: Wednesday, 3/8/2006

Bowling Green voters balked at size of school levy

BOWLING GREEN - Most voters in the Bowling Green City School District agree the system needs a new junior high and even an auditorium, but the other projects that would have been paid for with a $43.2 million bond issue were simply too much, a survey of voters showed.

"It would seem the size of the project was the biggest stumbling block. That's the message I'm getting," board Vice President Thomas Milbrodt said yesterday after reviewing the results of 300 telephone surveys conducted with district residents who voted in November.

Voters rejected a 5.43-mill bond issue that would have paid for a middle school for grades 5-8. The new school was to have been built on the high school campus on West Poe Road and replace the aging junior high on West Wooster Street that houses seventh and eighth graders.

The bond issue also would have paid for a performing arts center, support services building, and athletic building on the high school campus, and an addition to Crim Elementary.

Board President Craig Mertler said the board did not even consider trying the bond issue again this May. "We knew we were going to do a survey, and we knew we wanted to take a look at the results and be responsive to those," he said. "We didn't want to rush into it."

Of the voters surveyed, 69.3 percent agreed that any new building proposal should include an auditorium, while 68 percent said a new junior high for seventh and eighth graders should be part of the proposal.

Voters who identified themselves as parents felt even more strongly: 79.7 percent favored an auditorium and 84.8 percent said a new junior high for seventh and eighth grades should be part of the plan.

More telling perhaps was that only 26.3 of voters - and just 17.7 percent of parents who voted - supported a new junior high for grades five through eight as the board has proposed.

"I think that's one of the things we have to look at," Superintendent Hugh Caumartin said after the board meeting. "Educationally, there are very strong reasons to go to a 5-8 middle school - primarily curriculum standards and teacher licensing - but either you try to sell [that concept] or accept reality."

Board member Paul Windisch said he believes many people don't like the idea of change.

Mr. Mertler agreed. "For decades, we've had a 7-8 junior high," he said.

Still, Mr. Mertler conceded some voters might fear that if the district builds a middle school for grades 5-8, it would in turn close more elementary schools.

In 2003, the board shelved a plan to realign the elementary grades, build a new middle school, and close three elementaries after widespread dissent among residents. "I think there are some individuals who still have that fear and some fear of the unknown - of what will happen" after a new junior high is built, Mr. Mertler said.

Among the most common reasons voters said they believed the bond issue failed was the idea of higher taxes, the thought that the projects represented unnecessary spending, the perception the board was asking for too much, and the high cost of the millage.

The bond issue would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home $166.29 a year for 28 years.

The school board paid Stanford H. Odesky & Associates of Sylvania Township $5,000 to conduct the survey.



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