Light shed on school finances
Following the Oct. 15 meeting of the London Board of Education, local newspaper coverage generated some murmurings throughout the district. One headline read, “School eyes deficit spending, $6 million shortfall.” Was that a warning to taxpayers to hold tighter to their wallets? Is the school district spending money carelessly?
Let’s shed some light and remind the community a bit about school finance. First, the 1 percent income tax went into effect in 2006. That levy, for operations, was enacted for five years. So, after 2011, that revenue ceases to come into the school district. That is a decrease in revenue of $2.8 million per year.
Also, the Ohio General Assembly enacted legislation that eliminated tax on tangible personal property. That is the inventory of equipment and goods of businesses. For a few years, the state made up the loss for schools. But as of 2012, the state phases out that “make up” money for education. The loss of funds from tangible personal property tax to the London Schools is just over $900,000 per year.
The net result of these two factors is that the school district loses approximately $3.7 million dollars, 20 percent of our revenue, per year, beginning 2012. So are we likely to be on the ballot in a couple of years? Unfortunately, yes. That is just the way the system is designed.
The London Board of Education, very wisely, looked ahead and saw all these factors meeting at the same point, 2012. Cuts were made in 2006, even though the district was collecting the full amount of taxes described above.
The district has trimmed 2.5 administrative positions, saving the district approximately $200,000 per year. We have replaced five administrators with individuals earning less than their predecessors; again, saving substantially. Please note that we asked the Ohio Department of Education to conduct a staffing audit. Their finding was that the London City Schools has 13.5 fewer staff members than most schools of its size. So, when the treasurer is quoted as stating that the district is lean, we have an independent audit to support that.
Bottom line: just like home owners and business owners, the district continues to look ahead, make the cuts whenever possible, and then plan for the future. Obviously, our revenue is completely dependent on taxes. The board and the administration are very sensitive about that. Concurrently, we are also very concerned and sensitive to the educational needs of the youth of our community. As the expression goes, “Education is expensive, but consider the cost of ignorance.”
D. Steven Allen, superintendent
London City Schools
Mt. Sterling Library on lean budget
The Mount Sterling Public Library is a school district library, as are the libraries in London, West Jefferson and Plain City. In 1911, the Union School Board (Mount Sterling) and the Pleasant Township School Board joined to form the library district for the benefit of both schools. Through consolidations, the school district has grown to what it is today. Some residents find it more convenient to visit another library closer to them. If you live in the northern or western part of our district, you may be closer to the London, West Jefferson or South Charleston libraries. For the same reason, many people in Pickaway and Fayette counties use the Mount Sterling Public Library instead of their district libraries.
We cannot change who we are and, by law, all registered voters in our district can vote on the upcoming tax levy for Mount Sterling Public Library. At the same time, many of our patrons from other school districts cannot vote on this issue. What this means is, if you live in our district, but use London or West Jefferson libraries, the people in those school districts are voting on and paying for the services you use. The same thing happens in our district. We pay for the services that our patrons from other counties use.
An important fact to keep in mind is that the Mount Sterling Public Library is online 24/7 and belongs to a consortium that allows us to access the collections of over 150 libraries in the state at no charge to our patrons. Library cards are free, and there is no charge for most of our services.
We continually try to make our library more attractive and more accessible to all people without district. We work with the schools, giving them support in the libraries. We work with the teachers, providing materials and programs in the classrooms. We have employed quite a few Madison Plains Civic/English students as pages to help with their New York and Washington D.C. class trip expenses. We have plans to expand our presence in the schools for the benefit of the teachers and students. We also are working on plans that would let us use the schools as satellite pick-up and drop-off points for materials to any of our patrons.
As we have pointed out in mailings to district residents, our funds have been frozen since 2001. We have tried to operate at the same scale since 2001 without cutting any services. We have stretched and saved and spent our savings down until that is no longer an option. We do nothing that is extravagant. We offer the very best basic services that we can. We belong to organizations that help us offer more services with the funds we have.
We use grants and other similar aid programs when we can, however, we can no longer continue to operate the programs we do without help from our service area. We are asking you to pass a 1-mill levy that will generate approximately $180,000 per year for 10 years. We will never be able to regain what we have lost over the last several years because of the budget freeze. However, we are at a point where we either have to make more cuts or pass this levy to continue forward.
We are taxpayers also and realize that no one wants to pay more taxes. We can see no other option to keep the library from moving backwards than to pass this levy. After careful consideration, we felt 1-mill was the least we could ask for to keep operating for the next 10 years without having to come back for more. One-mill on a $100,000 property costs $31 per year, less if you are over 65. Where else can you get the same kind of value for that amount of money? A night out to the movies, an evening out to dinner, a baseball game—almost anything you can do can cost as much as a full year’s support for your public library. Please support your library and help us to keep a good thing going.
We are 97 years old and have a proud heritage of service to our community. We sincerely hope that you will carefully consider our situation and give us the opportunity to serve all of our district well into the future.
Paul Morehart, president
Mount Sterling Library Board
Seniors are library fans
As the activity coordinator at the Madison Senior Living Community, I would like to express my appreciation for the London Library. London is very fortunate to have the resources contained in the library, but I wonder if everyone understands that the London Library is not just a building.
We here at the MH are very fortunate to have monthly visits from Ruth Gorman (outreach coordinator), providing interesting and stimulating theme-based programming. Our residents look forward each month to her next visit.
The Summer Concert Series is a highlight of our summer calendar. Many residents attend and enjoy the various programs presented outdoors on the library lawn. This outing provides opportunities to enjoy the music, but on a broader scope, they enjoy the interaction with all ages.
I hope London realizes the need for the continuance of existing services, and I urge everyone to vote for the library operating levy on Nov. 6.
Mary Richey, activity coordinator
Madison Senior Living Community
MATCO is fond patron of library
As our community considers the upcoming library levy on Nov. 6, I’d like for you to consider the impact that our local London Public Library has on our London community. As the activity coordinator of MATCO Services, I want to express my appreciation for all that London Public Library offers those we serve at MATCO.
MATCO is a non-profit 501c-3 organization that has provided a variety of services to adults with disabilities throughout Madison County for 35 years. We are located in London and frequently utilize London Public Library’s services.
Each week, we visit the library to browse for books and enjoy a 30-minute interactive program presented by the library’s outreach coordinator, Ruth Gorman. Of course, it’s great to be greeted warmly when we arrive, and the library staff is always quick to assist us with a smile.
As part of their outreach program, we also have the opportunity to enjoy their Talking Book Program, which provides free recorded books, magazines and play-back equipment to our eligible blind, visually impaired, physically handicapped and reading disabled residents.
Every spring, London Public Library holds their annual silent auction fundraiser of chairs painted by local artists. We are invited to participate and support our library and our community by painting a chair. It’s the least we can do and yet we gain the greatest satisfaction! Weeks of effort and creativity are invested in the project. The immeasurable sense of pride we feel when our chair is purchased is just another way that London Public Library makes a difference.
Please give serious consideration this November to our London Public Library so that we may continue to enjoy the great benefits the library provides.
Alice Kennedy, activities coordinator
Kambree’s Kids benefit gears up
It is once again time for the annual Kambree’s Kids benefit for Nationwide (Columbus) Children’s Hospital. Since 2003, over $60,000 has been raised in memory of Kambree Michelle Dillon and donated to the hospital in honor of all the children served there. This annual event would not be possible without the community support we receive from VFW Post 7005 in West Jefferson, the Men’s and Ladies’ Auxiliaries, Coughlin Automotive, Byers & Sons, Eagles Aerie in London, the Naus on Fisher Road, Bill Hays, Matt Modlich and so many others.
It is an amazing tribute to the people of this county that they show such amazing support for this benefit each year. Most of us are not wealthy, but every year the people dig deeply into their hearts and wallets.
Kambree’s Kids is held every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (this year Nov. 24) from noon to 11 p.m. Children are invited until 7 p.m. There is no charge for admission There is food served all day; and music is provided all day by The Posse, Mike O’Harra and Darwin Conley & Friends. Santa makes an arrival at 4:30 p.m. and a live auction is held all day.
The money is raised through donations for the food, purchase of auction items, and this year, through the raffle of a 2000 GMC 4-wheel drive pick-up donated by Coughlin Automotive. Tickets for the truck are $20 each with no more than 500 being sold. Last year, Stu Kitchen, drum major for The Ohio State University marching band, made an appearance and we are hoping he will be with us again this year.
In conjunction with Kambree’s Kids this year, Woody and the Wake Up Call from WCOL 92.3 FM will broadcast live from VFW Post 7005 in West Jefferson from 5:30 to 10 a.m. Nov. 9. The first 250 people will receive free t-shirts from WCOL. The Men’s Auxiliary of the VFW, with help from the Ladies’ Auxiliary and the membership, will serve a buffet breakfast that morning. The cost of breakfast is donation only.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the VFW or either auxiliary, bring your personal military records or family members’ military records on Nov. 9 and someone will assist you. Every Friday, we remember our military members at VFW Post 7005 by wearing red. Please remember to wear red on Nov. 9.
We would like to see all 40,000 people from this county turn out for one or both of these events that support a wonderful cause. Donations of items for auction are greatly appreciated. Please contact Pat or Nena Dillon at 614-879-9470.
Nena J. Dillon
Tax reform helps
What would you do with a little extra money next year? Well, you will have the opportunity to answer that question in 2008 because of the tax cuts that were implemented by the Ohio Legislature in 2005.
Though some are posing these cuts as new, the legislature has supported the changes since their inception two and a half years ago. In 2005, the Ohio Legislature saw the opportunity for Ohioans to keep more of their hard earned money.
My colleagues and I passed historic tax reforms as part of the 2006-2007 biennium budget. Among these reforms was the state’s income tax withholdings, which were to be reduced by a total of 21 percent over a five-year period. As the fourth installment is set to begin, withholding cuts will have decreased by nearly 17 percent since 2004. The 4.2 percent cut in 2008 is a continuation of the legislature’s reforms.
Soon, employers should receive the new withholding tables from the Department of Taxation. They are also available online at http://tax.ohio.gov/divisions/employer_withholding. If you have questions regarding the tax cuts, you can call the Department of Taxation’s Business Taxpayer Assistance line at 888-405-4039.
I believe that these dollars will be best spent by those who earned them. I remain committed to seeing these tax cuts fully implemented and hope that they help to make a difference for each of you.
As always please, contact me if you have any questions or concerns regarding this or any other state related matter. You can reach my office at 614-466-1470 or write me, Representative Chris Widener, 77 S. High St. Columbus, Ohio 43215.