Prepared Text for Board Meeting Ė January 26, 2009 (Levy)

Marc A. Schare614 791-0067 Work - 614 791-1779 Fax

marc9@aol.com

 

David, thanks for the opportunity to discuss the levy. As to open questions, I have all the information that I need, but I think we as a board might want to might consider a few factors.

 

First, there is an open question as to the size of the levy. A levy amount of 7.9 mills does not seem justified by the forecast unless you play out the forecast through 6 years. If the board chooses to try to answer the question ďHow much and how oftenĒ at least through the next six years, you maybe can justify 7.9 mills. If the board chooses to worry solely about the next 3 years, we could possibly go as low as 6.5 mills. This is a philosophical question and one which I had hoped to get at through community engagement. Do we levy enough to meet our immediate needs or do we levy enough to get a consistent cycle in duration and amount.

 

Second, there is an open question as to the commitments that we will make to the community. Iím a proponent of board resolutions that clearly and concisely state promises that we are willing to make. We are promising the levy will last 3 years. Letís get that in writing. What else are we willing to absolutely commit to. How about this. If the district gets a windfall, either from the Governorís plan on Wednesday or the Presidentís stimulus package, we commit in writing to using that money to lower the size of the 2012 levy, and by the way, the House education committee projection is that Worthington will receive over 4 million dollars in stimulus payments over the next 2 years. What other commitments can we make? Should we commit that a percentage of funds be used for renewal programs? Should we commit to an additional allocation for sports.

 

Third, there is an open question as to the size of the ending cash balance in 2012. While Iím normally willing to follow the lead of our treasurer on these types of issues, Iím having a difficult time justifying an additional mill simply to show that we have the money in the bank if a rating agency cares to look By definition, this pile of money is designed to sit there, unused, at least through 2013, perhaps generating interest at an excruciatingly slow pace. Iíve no doubt that it is a fine fiscal practice for municipalities, however, I question whether this is the right time, with Ohioís unemployment rate at a 15 year high, to start implementing it.


 

Fourth, there is perhaps an open question as to whether we would like to take this opportunity to start to change the levy dialogue in Worthington. Levys are seen by many as a school district unable to manage funds and unable to ďlive within our meansĒ. This attitude results in an unhelpful defensive posture on the part of the district. If levys were viewed as predictable, affordable and sustainable, this every three year drama could be seen as something as ordinary as the triennial reappraisal. To do so, we need to start to get at the question of how people would like their district to be managed. The current expense curve shows that we might require 8 mills every three years in perpetuity. Is that OK with the people that live here. Would they like a higher amount for more stuff. Do they view this as excessive? A strategy of 50%+1, one levy at a time, doesnít help to get at this long range question. Some might say itís stupid to even try and that Iím naÔve to bring it up. Perhaps, but if one day, we reach a place where Worthington residents are tapped out and multiple levys fail, the cuts will be harsh and severe, and employee and parent alike will never see them coming. The specter of financial Armageddon, even if years down the road, should be enough to see if long term financial planning with our constituents is something we should consider.