London BOE answers questions
By Rob Treynor
Over the weekend, a telephone call was made to all parents of London students urging them to attend Tuesday night’s Q&A meeting at London High School. Superintendent Steve Allen and the London Board of Education (BOE) planned to present their case for why the 7.5-mill emergency operating levy was on the forthcoming May ballot.
Approximately 50 parents attended the meeting in the London High School auditorium. Many were armed with questions about the recent cuts, future cuts, and questions about what will be restored with the passage of the levy.
“London residents are currently paying the lowest amount of school taxes required by Ohio law,” said Steve Allen at the beginning of his presentation to the crowd.
Allen’s presentation explained that last year’s income tax levy was merely a renewal, and thus didn’t bring any new money to the system.
“What we voted for was to continue a tax we already had,” said Allen. “In fact, due to the economy, income tax revenue was down $600,000 in 2009. “
“It’s been really hard for us to try to pinpoint exactly what the Governor’s budget is going to do to the schools,” Allen said, but continued with some facts gleaned from the budget. “Over the next two years we will lose $1,550,00 in tangible personal property tax income, unless the economy rebounds.”
Allen’s presentation emphasized that the new middle school was being built with state funds which already had been collected, and not local taxes. “Not a dime! Not a dime is coming out of your money or my money. It’s coming out of tobacco settlement funds that the state of Ohio received from the tobacco companies,” he said.
Allen then went over belt-tightening procedures that the district has already made:
• Employees of the school district pay 20 percent of family health insurance premiums and the staff have approved a less expensive plan, saving $200,000.
• The staff approved a 3 percent reduction in salaries, no step increases, no tuition reimbursement, a decrease in activities contracts, and fewer extended days. The savings from these items equal $388,509 for next year.
• Decreased administrative/supervisory staff by three positions, saving $238,000 per year from 2006-2011 for a total savings of $1,190,000. Plus two additional administrative positions have been trimmed, saving $150,000 per year.
Increased the pay-to-participate fee from $45 to $100, generating $37,000 per year. “One hundred dollars per sport may seem like a lot, but if you look around central Ohio, you’ll see that this price could be far, far worse.” Allen said.
At the conclusion of his presentation, Rev. Gordon Johnson, a London resident for 43 years and pastor of the London First Presbyterian Church, moderated the question and answer portion of the evening.
Parents wrote their queries onto 3×5 note cards which were collected by BOE members and then read by Johnson.
The following are among the questions answered by board members:
Q: Is there a published budget?
A: Anything regarding financing is published every month and are available on the BOE’s website.
Q: What happens if the levy doesn’t pass in May 3?
A: It’s difficult to project if it does pass whether we can maintain. But if it fails, it’s obvious that more cuts will be necessary.
Q: Will sports be cut next?
A: The board has never discussed what the next round of cuts would entail.
Q: Isn’t busing for high school students mandated?
A: Busing is mandated for K-6 for students two miles from the school. We will continue to bus in-town students K-8.
Q: If levy doesn’t pass, will the middle school sit empty?
A: No. There’s no reason for that. The middle school will be a savings. It will cost the district more to stay put since the school system would have to pay rent to the City of London, who are the current owners of the property.
Q: Would the tax be paid only by people within the city limits or by people throughout the school district?
A: Everyone in the school district would pay. And there is no truth to the rumor being circulated that Choctaw residents do not pay school taxes now.
Q: Are the administrators also the lowest paid in the county, like the teachers?
To this question, the board did not know the answer, but promised to research the answer and post the answer on the school’s website.
To submit a question to the school board, and to read responses to other questions, one can go to http://bit.ly/eDUj3n.