Monday, June 28, 2010

Opinion - Special Edition on School Levy

It just might work
That’s My Opinion – Special Edition
By Bob Robinson

“Lies, lies and more lies,” said one angry taxpayer.
“I’m concerned about the approach they’ve taken,” said a levy supporter.
“It’s out-and-out bribery,” said another, also a supporter.
“When will they understand that ‘no’ means ‘no’?” said yet another. He was against it then, still is.
There have been many comments about Greenville School District’s third campaign to get a new 5-8 building bond passed in August for the Ohio Avenue property. So far, all of them negative… even from their supporters.
The story, published June 17 in The Advocate, was a shocker. I knew it would take a creative campaign to change the voter verdicts the previous two times. This approach, however, never crossed my mind.
In a nutshell, the school board said that due to cost savings of a new facility, it was willing to waive workbook, lab and flat fees for all curricular programs at all grade levels. An anticipated $300,000 a year in savings is expected if the voters say “yes” to the new school.
The story didn’t say if this would be an annual elimination of fees. According to one levy opponent, Greenville Schools Supt. Susie Riegle acknowledged it was not. It was only for one school year.
At first I wondered how fees could be eliminated in 2010-11 if the new school – assuming the levy passed – wouldn’t be completed for 1-2 years. In other words, the savings wouldn’t kick in until later.
Then I remembered that the program they want to pass includes reimbursement for dollars spent fixing the junior high school. That would make sense. But they didn’t say that.
If true, that would still leave $300,000 a year in savings that the board evidently isn’t interested in returning to taxpayers or struggling parents.
However, as they say in the television commercials… “That’s not all!”
At the tail end of the story is the kicker. Five thousand square feet of the new building will be dedicated to the community and senior citizens.
Assuming the square footage for the building hasn’t changed, this is space that would have to be taken from some other use… but that wasn’t reported in the story. That’s a lot of space… does it come from administration or previously planned classroom space? And have they taken into consideration obvious security concerns?
Those little details need to be explained.
Levy supporters have told me that South School is simply not usable any longer as a district learning facility, if for no other reason than it is out of space. The traffic jam every day – especially now with buses dropping off and picking up students – is dangerous to our kids. They may or may not be right. I can’t get it out of my head that the cost of renovating both South and the Junior High is about the same as the cost of building new. The difference, of course, is that Ohio will only return a portion of our money if we build new.
To hell with our history and heritage.
The other thing that bothers me is that during the last campaign we were told that the Ohio Street property wasn’t big enough to handle K-12, despite the original levy request several years ago. Now they are telling us that if we don’t pass the levy this August, the only way we can get state funding (our money) is to go back to the K-12 plan.
So which is it? Is the property big enough or isn’t it?
Instead, we keep getting “sleight of hand.” Voters have long memories. They remember the Board buying this property against the wishes of many district taxpayers.
Voters are also going to remember an emergency levy they passed last year. Now that the district says it will see an annual savings of more than $300,000, the question might be “why am I being asked to pay even more?”
Lip service was paid to struggling district voters in this economy, yet the one thing they could have done – and didn’t – was offer to decrease the current tax rates proportionally to pass that savings on to “struggling” taxpayers.
Something has to be done for these kids. Preferably the right thing. Right or wrong – we may never know – the board is adamant… it wants what it wants and it has gotten creative in order to achieve it.
Once again, my opinion is about the kids. The new building is the only option the board and the state are willing to offer and no one can argue that the kids will benefit.
The biggie isn’t the fee exemption for next year. Even the district acknowledges that a huge segment of district parents don’t vote. They won’t flood the polls on election day. The biggie is offering a bone to the largest voting block in our community… the Center that our seniors have been wanting for years.
That, my friends, is bribery. And it just might work.
That’s my opinion. What’s yours?

Bob Robinson is the retired editor of The Daily Advocate, Greenville, Ohio. If you wish to be notified when a blog is posted, send your email address to: Feel free to comment.


shamrock said...

As someone who votes in every election, I feel that the entire issue has gotten muddy and unclear. Whenever that happens, I naturally get suspicious and think what are they trying to pull. So the parents would get a break but not the property owners once again. I paid my childrens' fees, let the current ones pay also. That is not the answer.

As far as the senior citizen center, that is bribery. They need to retract all of this and apologize to the taxpaying public and start rebuilding confidence.

That's My Opinion said...

Uncle 1252 said...

Another sneak attack! The schools are really trying to get the renters to vote, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. A one time fee exemption doesn't match a lifetime of taxes. That really means that renters will probably never be able to afford to own property. Those of you who just rent, be ware, they will sneak another income tax increase next. For the seniors, what a crock and just another form of bribery. Add this to the fact that polls are housed in a couple of nursing homes kind of insures they get the senior votes. Remember, most of these residents don't own property and are easily swayed into believing these fast talking crooks. I'll be observing their tactics to see how they convince the seniors without violating voting laws. How many precincts will they have to change to help their cause? Moving them and creating long lines will frustrate the working person to the point of not voting. Last, buying property that wasn't capable of housing the students, the lack of maintenance, and getting kicked out of the league, doesn't justify a new Junior High, it warrants personnel changes. You don't need brick and mortar, you need a new way of thinking from new members.