District presses levy caseBy Rob Treynor
Rev. Gordon Johnson returned to moderate a second question-and-answer session Tuesday evening on the topic of the London’s school levy on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Steve Allen, superintendent of London City Schools, told the 40 in attendance at Choctaw Lake Lodge, “When the economy went south, you took a hit. So did we. The schools are in the same boat as the rest of you.”
Allen explained what the school district has done so far to stay in budget, “I don’t think you’ll find a place anywhere else in Ohio where teachers voluntarily take a 3-percent pay decrease.”
Since the district knew of the shortfall, Allen explained that London has cut: 19 teachers; 17 other staff positions; 25 percent of extracurricular contracts; cut bussing for high school students; and made salary cuts adding up to $1,293,694.
Those cuts allowed the school to get through this school year, but future school years will require either additional revenue or more drastic cuts.
Johnson struggled at times to keep order at the meeting. Questions were required to be written on note cards and read by the moderator. However, many people just shouted out their questions or comments. More than one person attempted to turn the meeting into a discussion on State Issue 2, which, if passed, would allow administrators the opportunity to value performance over seniority.
Allen cautioned, however, that should Issue 2 pass, its effects wouldn’t be felt locally until 2014, when the current contracts are up for renegotiation.
One of the more difficult questions of the evening was, “I’m a senior citizen on a fixed income. With the cost of almost everything rising, how are we supposed to pay for an increase in taxes? What should we do? Move out of our houses?”
Vici Geer, president of London’s Board of Education, replied, “I’m retired on a fixed income, too. I understand what you’re going through. But we have to figure out what our priorities are. What can be more important than providing an education for our kids?”
The most pointed question of the evening was, “Why should I want to pay this tax?”
Kristine Blind, treasurer of London City Schools, answered, “If you want to educate your children, you’d want to pay the tax. We have to balance the budget. If we can’t, the state will come in. And we’ll have to try to pass levy after levy after levy until one of them passes. And each time a levy fails, the government would make more cuts to the schools. Eventually, they may close up the school district all together.”
Board member Marvin Homan, gave a less-grim followup answer, “Roughly 75 percent of the households in our district don’t have kids in school. I would look at it as a homeowner. It’s an investment in your communty and your property. If we can’t pass the levy and the state has to come in, your property value would decrease additionally since we won’t have a good school. People will not move to London or Choctaw if their kids can’t go to school in town. Look at this as an investment into your community and in the value of your house.”