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South-Western board signs contract with community
|Messenger photo by Pat Donahue
Ohio State’s Jim Tressel and 2005 Grove City graduate Dan Potokar came out to a July 20 rally at Westland Mall on July 19 to show their support for Issue 2.
In an effort to get yes votes, the Board of Education for the South-Western City Schools District offered to sign a contract with the community.
According to the district, the contract states the board’s commitment with the community to run an efficient and effective organization.
“The community is looking for assurance that it won’t be business as usual,” said Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise at the July 13 board meeting.
Board President Cathy Johnson added, “In conversation with community members, they want assurance that with the passage of Issue 2, we will change the way we do business.”
Documents provided by the district explain the contract, with the support of the community, would enable the district to increase student achievement and create a safer and more secure learning environment. The contract would build up operations to make business practices, human resources and facilities more efficient.
According to the contract, upon passage of the four-year 8.3-mill tax levy, the district would make an “aggressive” effort to make funds, generated by the levy, last through 2013. Other contract objectives include implementing reductions to improve operational efficiency, increasing communication with the community and improving the district’s ranking to “effective” on the state report card.
Board member Randy Reisling said, “This is a contract we will be held to.”
The district will issue quarterly reports to residents of the district that would test the efforts to meet the requirements of the contract. The agreement would go into effect if voters approve the levy on Aug. 4.
The contract is available for review on the district’s Web site, www.swcs.us.
The 8.3-mill tax levy would generate approximately $21 million for the district to keep current educational services, though even if the issue passes, there would still be $2 million in cuts for the upcoming school year.
The issue would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $22 per month or $264 a year. The owner of a $200,000 would pay $44 a month or $528 annually.
The district has reduced its budget by $8 million for the 2009/10 school year. The cuts include the elimination of athletics, extracurricular activities and high school busing. Harrisburg Elementary School and the Kingston School will close, as will school facilities after hours. Over 60 positions have been cut.
If the levy were approved, some cuts would be restored. Athletics and extracurricular activities would come back, as would high school transportation. The buildings would be open for community use after the school day.
Kingston would reopen, though Harrisburg would not. In an effort to cut costs, district leaders decided to keep the elementary school closed. According to Treasurer Hugh Garside, it costs the district $730,000 each year to operate Harrisburg. Approximately 40 positions would also not be reinstated.
Lee Schreiner, a teacher in the district for more than 30 years, said the budget reductions are the worst he has seen in his years at SWCS.
“I am hurt and frustrated,” said Schreiner. “These cuts are bare bones.”
At the board meeting, the teacher reached out to the community and said the students and teachers need help from the residents, by passing Issue 2.
“The innocent are the students; the heroes can be the voters; the villain being state funding in education,” said Schreiner.
Other residents encourage voters to turn down the tax levy.
Terry Jones, with a levy opposition group, said tax money from the levy would be funds families could not use to spend in the local economy. He also said the educational unions need to “step up and make real sacrifices” as employee salaries and benefits make up much of the district’s operational costs.
“The board needs to stop giving into employee and union demands,” said Jones. “The unions are breaking the backs of taxpayers.”
In May, the majority of voters rejected the district’s 8.3-mill operating levy. In November, voters also rejected a combined tax levy and bond issue.
At the meeting, the board approved a resolution to continue membership into the Ohio High School Athletic Association for the 2009/10 school year.
Wise said this is no cost to the district and it needs to be in place if the levy passes on Aug. 4 so athletics would be ready to go.
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