B.G. voters weigh levy request

Swanton district seeks funding for new building

5/5/2013
BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
As the chair of the Citizens in Support of Our Schools committee, Grounds for Thought coffee shop owner Kelly Wicks campaigns for a BG school levy inside his downtown Bowling Green shop.
As the chair of the Citizens in Support of Our Schools committee, Grounds for Thought coffee shop owner Kelly Wicks campaigns for a BG school levy inside his downtown Bowling Green shop.

BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green school officials said voter approval of a tax levy will help pay for the district’s daily operations as it battles dwindling state funding, but an opposing group questions the need and how the money will be used.

The 6.75-mill continuing tax levy sought by the Bowling Green school district is one of numerous school funding proposals voters in northwest Ohio will decide during Tuesday’s election.

The request has people taking sides and planting yard signs along residential streets in Bowling Green, where supporters said the school district already made cuts.

“The school system has done everything they can to be financially responsible,” said Kelly Wicks, owner of a downtown coffee shop Grounds for Thought and chairman of the committee Citizens in Support of Our Schools. “If we can’t count on the state to fund public education properly then we, as a community, must.”

The tax would raise about $3.9 million a year and cost the owner of a $150,000 appraised home about $310 a year, according to Treasurer Rhonda Melchi. She said the district projects a $4.7 million deficit by the end of the 2014-15 school year.

In November, Bowling Green voters rejected a 0.75 percent, five-year school income tax increase that would have raised roughly $4.05 million a year.

Voters need more information about how the district would use the funds, said Robert Maurer, a Bowling Green attorney, landlord, and the treasurer of a group opposing the tax proposal.

“We haven’t really been told how they are going to use it or what the plan is. We just kind of question the need,” he said.

He urged the district to be “more transparent” and said the millage request “seems a little bit excessive.”

“Our whole economy has contracted since the 2008 economic downturn,” Mr. Maurer said.

Superintendent Ann McVey said the money would pay for “day-to-day operations.” She said the district has made cuts, among them a 15 percent reduction in teaching staff through attrition beginning in 2004 and the closure of several schools to consolidate and better utilize resources.

Swanton voters will decide if they’re willing to pay the local share of a school construction project that would receive state funding. With voter approval, Swanton Local School District would build a new prekindergarten through sixth grade building, consolidating its four schools down to two buildings. Seventh and eighth graders would be merged into the high school building and the two existing elementaries and junior high would be sold or demolished.

The district seeks a 35-year, 3.9-mill bond issue to fund the $13.5 million local share of the building project and a 0.5 mill continuing maintenance levy. The total tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 appraised home about $135 a year, according to the district treasurer.

Cathy Ray of Swanton opposes the building project and tax proposal, which she said will burden senior citizens on fixed incomes and struggling families.

“I wonder if it’s greed or need, and I guess my point is ... that it is not necessary at this particular time for this to be done,” she said. “This is less about the students and more about the legacy left behind by this school building.”

A sign against the BG school levy is placed in front of an abandoned gas station on Wooster St. just east of I-75 in Bowling Green, Ohio.
A sign against the BG school levy is placed in front of an abandoned gas station on Wooster St. just east of I-75 in Bowling Green, Ohio.

She said the plan would eliminate the walkable, neighborhood elementary schools and require students to be bused to the high school campus site.

Superintendent Jeff Schlade said part of the junior high was built in 1904. One elementary school was built about 50 years ago, and the other is not quite that old. He said consolidating buildings will save the district utilities and maintenance costs.

If the request fails, the district would have one more chance to get voter approval in August before the state’s proposal to pay for roughly 60 percent of the project expires, Mr. Schlade said.

“Realizing obviously the economy [is] the way that it is, I don’t know if there’s really ever a good time to ask people for money,” he said. “This is our chance to take advantage of the state’s offer.”

If approved, officials expect to have the building ready for the start of the 2015 school year.

The Oregon school district seeks a five-year, 2-mill tax renewal. The levy has been renewed regularly since it was first approved in the 1960s. The funds would be used for items such as technology, curriculum, safety measures, and vehicle upgrades.

Other school funding proposals on Tuesday’s ballot:

The Ada Exempted Village School District seeks a seven-year, 0.75 percent income tax for current operating expenses.

Apollo Career Center Joint Vocational School District requests a 30-year, 0.31-mill bond issue to raise $11.64 million to pay the local share of a school construction project; a 10-year, 0.19-mill tax levy to improve buildings and maintain classrooms; and a 30-year, 0.5-mill bond issue to raise $18.36 million for such costs as improvements, renovations, equipment, and furnishings.

The Bluffton Exempted Village School District seeks a three-year, 0.5 percent income tax renewal for permanent improvements.

The Cory-Rawson Local School District seeks a five-year, 0.75 percent income tax renewal for current expenses.

They Fostoria City School District requests an 8.15-mill substitute tax levy for a continuing period of time for operational expenses. The existing five-year levy was approved in 2009 and has a current rate of 8.55 mill.

The Carey Exempted Village School District seeks a 37-year, 6-mill bond issue to pay for the $10.9 million local share to build a new prekindergarten through 12th grade school and a 23-year, 0.5-mill tax levy to pay for maintenance.

The Bettsville Local School District seeks a five-year, 1 percent income tax renewal for current operating expenses.

The Clyde-Green Springs Exempted Village School District seeks a five-year, 5.25-mill emergency operating levy.

The Gibsonburg Exempted Village School District requests a 10-year, 1 percent income tax for current operating expenses.

The Napoleon Area City School District seeks a five-year, 0.5 percent income tax for current expenses.

The Elmwood Local School District seeks a 0.5 percent income tax renewal for a continuing period of time for current expenses beginning Jan. 1, 2016; and a 0.75 percent income tax renewal for a continuing period of time for current expenses beginning Jan. 1, 2017.

The North Baltimore Local School District seeks an 8-mill tax levy renewal for a continuing period of time for current expenses.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.