A Personal Note from Marc
After literally months of planning, probing and questioning, I voted with the rest of the board in favor of putting the levy on the ballot. Since I got involved in Worthington School District politics in 2001, I have not publicly supported a single levy, so the logical question is - why am I supporting this one? Make no mistake, this was not a rubber stamp vote on my part. The finance committee of the Board of Education (Jennifer Best and myself), along with Superintendent Conrath and Treasurer Boyd, put literally hundreds of hours of research into how we should address the levy failure in May. Many people believed that we should simply rerun the levy in November, same amounts, same message, better campaign. I rejected that idea because I felt strongly that we were on an unsustainable path that would require property tax increases every other year in perpetuity. We needed a new direction and the levy failure brought with it an opportunity to head in that direction.
There were six things that convinced me to support this levy.
First and foremost, the need is real. An objective look at our school buildings, school buses and technology infrastructure shows leaky roofs, old buses and unusable technology. I'm not convinced that we need the entire 37.5 million dollars, but we clearly need something and, speaking for myself, I'd rather have a dedicated stream of funds for these purposes so that we are guaranteed that the money actually goes to these purposes. Your vote, again, simply authorizes the sale of bonds. If the expenditures cannot be justified, they will not be made.
Second, our Superintendent is leading us down a new fiscal path. Dr. Conrath attended a meeting of the Treasurer's Advisory Committee in late July. At that meeting, Treasurer Boyd was discussing changes to the five year forecast and it became known that we would have a small surplus in the operating budget in the 2007-2008 fiscal year. We could have put an operating levy on the ballot in conjunction with the bond issue, or instead of the bond issue, but Dr. Conrath said no. She wanted another 6-12 months to continue her efforts to look for efficiencies. She also realizes that the fall elections and the resulting state budget that follows will have a profound effect on our funding, so we will be able to rightsize the request.
Third, my fellow board members agreed to the resolution detailing how the bond money would be spent. There was considerable, justified skepticism when I first discussed the resolution, but their willingness, and the subsequent unanimous vote, should demonstrate to the taxpayers that we mean to keep our promises. In addition to defining where the money will be spent, the resolution also creates community task forces that will guarantee that you, the taxpayer, know what is happening with your money.
Fourth, it is clear that we need to separate capital improvement needs from the operating budget. There are simply too many unknowns to leave the funds commingled, and if there is one thing I personally believe about government at any level, if the money is there, it will be spent. The bond issue will remove 11.23 million dollars from the operating budget. The next five year forecast will be radically different and the next operating levy request will reflect those reductions.
Fifth, this bond levy is "no additional millage". It does not burden current taxpayers, and it will add a small amount of tax to future taxpayers. A current tax of 2 or 3 mills would have hurt our seniors and others on fixed income. This bond issue will maintain tax rates at current levels, or below current levels, through 2012.
Finally, and residents of the school district need to understand this, the May levy was clearly business as usual. I feel that we can do better. We can use our existing resources to deliver a better product with more opportunities for our kids, but we must have the courage to do so. I ran for the board in 2003 and again in 2005 to help effect change. With the help of Dr. Conrath, Assistant Superintendent Cynkar, our teachers, our classified workers and my fellow board members, that change is beginning. Worthington was once perceived as THE district in central Ohio because we innovated, we invented and we knew how to think out of the box.
I have seen that spirit being revived in the district and it is exciting, but before we do anything, we MUST get our fiscal house in order. This bond levy is the first step in doing that.
Thanks for your time.