Levy on hold until May ballot
By Jane Beathard
Members of the London City Schools Board Of Education agreed Wednesday to forestall any new tax levy until May 2013.
The informal agreement followed an hour of intense debate among school board members over timing of a tax issue.
In the end, they agreed to wait until May in order to build community trust in district management and clarify the system’s financial picture.
“We need to go to the community with confidence,” said Interim Superintendent Tom Ben. “We are trying to restore confidence, but it’s an uphill battle.”
He said any new tax issue must be timed to meet the highest point possible in confidence in the schools. In addition, three previous failed property tax levies looked like “a blank check” to voters.
“The accountability part was missing,” Ben said.
Board president Martha Geib, M.D., disputed Ben’s claim.
“It didn’t look that way to us,” she said.
Board member Curtis Brooks said delaying a tax issue until May will give levy supporters sufficient time to inform the community about district needs and show a “track record” of sound financial management.
Although money remains tight, a recent unexpected “windfall” of $300,000 in estimated income taxes added breathing space to the district’s 2012 budget.
“We’ll be able to get through next school year with a cash balance,” Ben said.
Board member Marv Homan called the money a “blessing” that gave London schools time to build community trust and credibility.
“We owe it to the public to continue tightening our belts until we decide what (money) we need,” Homan said.
However, the financial reprieve is likely to be short lived.
Treasurer Kristine Blind noted technology updates required by the Ohio Department of Education in coming years will be costly.
“I fear we will lose the ground we’ve gained,” Blind said.
Geib asked Ben to assess what those updates will cost and present figures at the July board meeting. That assessment will help the group determine how much new tax money is needed.