Prepared Text for Board Meeting Ė August 14, 2006

Marc A. Schare

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Tonight, the Worthington Board of Education will take the first steps in solving three problems that have plagued the district for years - the lack of funds for essential repairs to facilities and buses, the lack of funds for the purchase and implementation of new technology, and the commingling (some would say contamination) of capital needs funds into the operating budget general fund. While we take the first step, the ultimate decision will reside, as always, with the taxpayers of the Worthington School District, so these remarks are directed at them.

 

Let me start by addressing the lack of an operating levy. Sometimes, the biggest story is not what we do, but what we donít, and the lack of an operating levy in 2006 is the biggest financial story of the evening. Who would have guessed back in May, when 7000 people voted against the levy, that we would not, as a routine matter, put the question back before the voters in November?

 

To be sure, the delay of the operating levy is equal parts luck and intent, but its significance goes far beyond the 8 million dollar shift over 2 years that enabled us to avoid the ballot in 2006. It signals a willingness on the part of the administration to search for efficiencies and new ways of doing things, as well as a recognition that Ďbusiness as usualí was detrimental to the long term interests of the district. More than anything else, this should tell the community that this board, Superintendent Conrath and Treasurer Boyd are serious about addressing the concerns that led to the levy defeat in May.

 

As to the bond issue, I will be supporting the placement of the levy on the ballot. As most of you know, I do not support levys easily, however, the district has issues that need to be addressed and the bond issue is the most taxpayer-friendly way to address them.

 

Letís start with buses. According to a 2002 study by the National Association of State Directors for Pupil Transportation Services, School Buses should be replaced after at most 15 years. We are not replacing buses because George Sontag enjoys new bus shopping, we are replacing them because they are costly to repair and they will turn into safety hazards. New buses will also reduce pressure on the operating budget due to increased fuel efficiency and less need of repair, to say nothing of the cleaner environment for kids.


 

 

Moving on to facilities, like most of the community, I question how a 5.5 million dollar allocation for facilities identified in February turned into 18.75 million dollars, however, it is obvious that the district has non-trivial facility upgrade and repair requirements. With sufficient oversight from a community advisory board, I feel confident that the district will be able to appropriately size and prioritize our facilities needs.

 

With regard to technology, I am genuinely excited by the prospects that an infusion of technology dollars can bring to our district. While I am totally against the idea that we simply replace old computers with new computers and do exactly what we are doing now, I have confidence that our IT department, administration and teachers can put that money to all kinds of creative uses. Itís my hope that rather than simply doling the money out, we ask our teachers for their best ideas as to how technology can improve the classroom experience, then have a community or district task force review the ideas and fund the ones that are most in line with the values and aspirations of the district.

 

Finally, with regard to cost shifting, the Worthington taxpayer should understand that the 10 million dollars that will be cost shifted out of the general fund over 5 years is money that they would be spent anyway, so this money is directly reducing the size of the next operating levy, essentially trading millage next year for millage in 2015.

 

The Worthington taxpayers will be voting on whether to authorize us to be able to issue up to 37.5 million dollars worth of bonds. If, after community review, it is decided that we didnít need all of that money, we are under no obligation to issue the bonds and incur the debt. While I expect we will be using most of it, there is sufficient opportunity for oversight, both by the public and by this board, to guarantee the taxpayer that the money will be well spent.

 

Let me close by thanking the Superintendent, Treasurer, Paul Cynkar, Tim Gehring and Keith Schlarb for their patience. Keith went the extra mile taking Jennifer and I on a tour of Worthington Kilbourne and Perry Middle School and all of them have endured months of endless questions - questions that the taxpayers will be asking during the campaign and questions that needed to be explored before asking taxpayers for anything. This issue is a fiscally-conservative, taxpayer friendly package that addresses needs that would have to be addressed sooner or later, and does so in a way that defers new taxes for 7 years and even then, keeps the millage relatively small. I urge the board to approve it.