Meeting addresses levy issue
By Rob Treynor
“How did we get into this situation?” Steve Allen, superintendent of London Public schools asked at the beginning of a special question-and-answer meeting held Monday night in the London Middle School lunch room.
“This, unfortunately, was a perfect storm.” Allen said. “If you’ve been paying attention to what’s going on in the state of Ohio, you know that a third of the schools are in the exact same situation that we’re in.”
“To put it bluntly, it’s the economy. The state has cut back its funding to us, and we’re feeling that. Our 1-percent income the school collects came in $600,000 less than in 2010. We had stimulus money, but that ran out.”
“In short, we’ve lost more than two million dollars in revenue since 2010.”
To make up that shortfall, London City Schools is asking voters to pass an 8.5-mill,
five-year emergency operational levy, which is on the ballot this November.
If Monday night’s attendance was any indication, London voters have already made up their mind on the levy. Despite a telephone invitation to every parent in the school district, only about 30 voters showed up for Monday night’s meeting.
Those who came out for the meeting were first greeted, as they entered the lunch room with levy campaigners, handing out leaflets, and yard signs.The yard signs, which don’t specify which issue to say what one is supposed to vote “yes” for on the ballot, bear prominent red and black colors which read, “Vote Yes. For our children, schools, community, future.”
Treasurer Kristine Blind, and board members Marvin Homan, Martha Geib, Vici Geer and Curtis Brooks joined Allen in answering voters’ questions. Pastor Gordon Johnson, of the London First Presbyterian Church, moderated the meeting.
Among the questions asked were:
• Why is the school district asking for 8.5 mills when last spring they only asked for 7.5 mills?
Marvin Homan replied, “When the board put the 7.5-mill levy on the ballot, we didn’t know about the additional state budget cuts that were coming. So our budget took another hit in May.”
• Why do people think that $1.5 million is missing from the school’s budget?
Treasurer Kristine Blind answered, “I’ve examined our position and what our balance was. We have thorough audits. Every expenditure is accounted for. I can assure you that no money has gone missing.”
Homan continued, “We’re absolutely certain that there was no impropriety. We make decisions based on numbers given to us. What happened over the course of two years is, that we were told our revenues would be a certain dollar amount. We made decisions based on those projections. Then, we discovered that those predictions were wrong.”
“Nobody took any money.” Homan said. “We had misinformation on which we made decisions. That $1.5 million dollar number wasn’t stolen money.”
• If the levy fails, why is the district keeping sports?
Steve Allen said, “If you don’t have sports, people leave. We had 23 enrollees from Central Crossing. That’s $5,600 per student in state aid. If we lost sports, our enrollment would go down as well as our income.”
“We’ve looked at cutting sports. What we found is we have contracts with other schools with which we play.” Martha Geib said. “If we don’t play those schools in sports, our contracts state that we’d owe them money in fines.”
“So if we cut sports, we’d lose revenue from the students that would leave the district, pay our $118,000 in fines, we’d have no sports to offer, and we’d still have to make more budget cuts,” Geib said.
• If the levy fails, what will happen to the marching band?
“Instrumental music would still be available as a class.” Vici Geer said. “The marching band would only be at London home games. The band would not be able to participate in away games or any band contests.”
The board plans a second Q&A meeting at 6:30 p.m. on October 18 at Choctaw Lake lodge.