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Published: Monday, 6/23/2014 - Updated: 2 months ago

THE PEOPLE SPEAK OUT

Bedford advised to pare down school levy

Board told at meeting similar plan also will fail

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Steve Lennex, who opposed the Bedford school tax request, said the next plan must be ‘‍small, short, and focused.’ Steve Lennex, who opposed the Bedford school tax request, said the next plan must be ‘‍small, short, and focused.’
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TEMPERANCE — Any second attempt at passing a new tax to upgrade facilities in the Bedford Public Schools will meet with vigorous, organized opposition if the cost is deemed excessive. That was the message the Board of Education received last week at a special meeting in the high school.

The community forum was called to give board members and Superintendent Mark Kleinhans a sense of what taxpayers would support after the landslide defeat of the district’‍s $70.35-million request on May 6. About 20 residents showed up for the hourlong gathering in the auditorium, which adjourned without comment from board members.

Steve Lennex, a former school board member and outspoken opponent of the failed tax request, warned that he and others had formed a political action committee, Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, that would oppose another similar levy proposal.

The board’s plan envisioned construction of a new elementary school building and extensive improvements to the school system’‍s buildings, most of which date to the 1950s and ’‍60s. The voting percentages were 62.56 against the plan and 37.44 in favor of it. Turnout exceeded 56 percent.

A common complaint among ‘‍no’ voters was that the plan, requiring a 4.37-mill tax, was too expensive, included too many unnecessary amenities — such as artificial turf at Bedford Community Stadium — and meant 30 years of indebtedness, in the form of bonds.

Mr. Lennex told board members that they were “spanked pretty hard” by an opposition “that was unfunded and disorganized. That won’t happen again.” He said the Bedford system’‍s enrollment has been in decline for years and that was in part because it was “losing market share” to other schools and districts which were outperforming it.

He told the board its new plan had to be “small, short, and focused,” and suggested $10 million, to be repaid in 10 years, to address the facilities’ critical needs.

Another speaker, Logan Tisdale, suggested reviving the district’‍s sinking fund levy, which expires this year, for maintenance and repairs. “I didn’t want to pay for superfluous things,” the retired Michigan State Police officer said in explaining his no vote, adding that 30 years of debt service was more than he could support.

Eric Parsil advised the board to try a two-phase plan: seek a 10-15 year bond millage and return to the voters when this debt was retired.

R. LaMar Frederick, a former Monroe County commissioner and Bedford Township supervisor, told the board it had no credibility with seniors. “Until you can convince them of the righteousness of your direction, you will fail again.”

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



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