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Published: Monday, 5/19/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

Bedford committee moves on after levy failure

Schools group looks to adapt its strategy, try again

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Beins-McCaig Beins-McCaig
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TEMPERANCE — This month voters turned down the Bedford Public Schools’ request for a levy to be used for extensive facility upgrades and a new elementary school, but they can expect to see it again, with perhaps some changes.

Lennex Lennex
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The Yes for Success committee, which ran the pro-levy campaign, is moving ahead with plans for another try and putting together recommendations for the board of education, said its co-chair, school board member Lisa Beins-McCaig.

The group met last week to hash out strategy and study the numbers from the May 6 vote. In a heavier-than-expected turnout, 62.59 percent of voters said no to the levy request, according to the Monroe County Clerk. The school board will have its first discussion about what to do next at its May 29 committee of the whole meeting.

“We want to have enough time,” Ms. Beins-McCaig said. “We’re going to hold some community feedback sessions and invite anyone who wants to come. We definitely want to include what they say to us in our focus.”

She said the board could return to the polls in November or wait until next year. The rejected 4.37-mill request could be reduced, but not by a lot.

“The committee did talk about the fact that we don’t want to whittle this thing down to just getting by. There wasn’t an intention to start big and go small,” she explained.

This means levy supporters can expect a stiff, organized opposition next time around, not the scattered “Vote No” signs seen in yards this time, said Steve Lennex, a school board member from 1996-2004 and vocal opponent of the tax request as grossly excessive.

“This was a stern rebuke by the electorate,” Mr. Lennex said. “The opposition was very disorganized and fragmented. The opposition to the next one will be big and organized. I was not shocked that this levy failed. What was shocking to me, having been a school board member, was that of the seven board members, not one of them could find the guts to say no.”

Mr. Lennex, the owner of a commercial real estate agency, noted that Bedford’s enrollment has been steadily shrinking, meaning less revenue from the state. He said there was little reason to believe the strapped district could afford to maintain the desired new and improved buildings without going to the voters again for a new sinking fund levy. The current sinking fund levy expires this year. As a then-school board member, Mr. Lennex said, he did actively support the bond levy used to build Monroe Road Elementary School.

“Budgeting is about priorities, and they need to start budgeting for building maintenance issues,” he said. He listed buses, band instruments, and artificial turf at the stadium as examples of the proposed expenditures that helped kill the levy request. “I saw dozens of known school supporters who gave a stern no,” he continued.

Ken Garn, another no voter, agreed, saying the board wanted “too much for too long for too many things that weren’t really needed.”

The board’s plan envisioned spending $70.35 million from a bond issue to fix and improve its aged buildings, most of which date to the 1950s and ’60s, construct a new elementary school at a yet-to-be-chosen location, and demolish Douglas Road and Jackman Road elementary schools. The bonds would be repaid over 30 years. The plan’s many improvements also included new parking lots, a renovated auditorium at the high school, and new stadium bathrooms. The owner of a $175,000 home would pay $179.40 per year in additional taxes, according to district figures.

Contact Carl Ryan at: carlryan@theblade.com or 419-724-6095.



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