Reynoldsburg levy seeks funds

With the economy in bad shape and Election Day rapidly approaching, voters will have to make hard, well thought-out decisions both nationally and locally.

In central Ohio, nine school districts are on the ballot for a bond issue, an operating levy or a combined bond and operating levy, with each school official hoping theirs will be approved. Included in those districts is Reynoldsburg City Schools, which placed a 6.9 mill-operating levy on the Nov. 4 ballot.

According to district treasurer Mitchell Biederman, the 6.9 mill-operating levy would generate $5.3 million annually and would add $211 in taxes per year to a homeowner whose house is valued at $100,000.

"I think the voters knew when they passed the bond issue in March that an operating levy might be on the ballot and would be open to it because we have been open and forthright with them regarding this," Biederman said.

"I know times are tough right now, but I hope the community will continue to do what it always does, and that’s support the schools," said Reynoldsburg City School Board of Education member Chip Martin.

It has been 11 years since the district has put an operating levy on the ballot and school board members say those funds have been stretching to its limit. In that time, Reynoldsburg City Schools has opened three buildings; Slate Ridge Elementary, Waggoner Road Middle School, and Waggoner Road Junior High School. While bond issues help pay for the construction of new buildings, operating levies are used to pay for instructional services (i.e. teaching and learning), equipment and supplies, transportation and utilities.

"We have taken a whole generation of students from kindergarten through 12th grade with that money," said Superintendent Stephen Dackin.

He noted the district has the lowest per pupil expenditure in Franklin County, but is ranked in the top 33 percent of the entire state in academic performance.

The board hopes that data will prove to voters they can stretch a buck and still achieve a quality education for students and approve Issue 81.

If the operating levy (which pays for instructional services, equipment, supplies, transportation and utilities) is not approved, the district is looking at a $7 million budget deficit in 2010-11.

"If the levy does not pass, we would have no other choice but to make Draconian cuts," stated Dackin.

"If the levy passes, we would get a partial collection right off the bat," stated Biederman. "It would keep us as current levels for 2009-11, with the outside chance of 2012."

In 2005 when district leaders noticed their revenues began to outpace their expenditures, they tightened their spending, but still had to cut more than $6 million out of their general fund budget. Included in those cuts were 60 staff positions, including 48 teachers, and eight administrators.

For additional information regarding Issue 81, the school board has set up a Town Hall meeting for Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at Reynoldsburg High School where the public can come and have their questions and concerns answered regarding this operating levy.

"It will be a great opportunity to come out, ask questions and get the message out," Dackin said.

Whether or not the 6.9 mill-operating levy passes, the district will still open their second high school and seventh elementary school in 2010.

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