The Canal Winchester Times

Groveport Madison schools

District seeks bond issue, levy package

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The Groveport Madison Board of Education agreed unanimously last week to ask voters to approve an operating levy, bond issue and permanent improvement levy in May.

If approved, Superintendent Bruce Hoover said the package would allow the district to stabilize its finances, restore many of the programs cut after two previous levy failures, expand some programs and build a new high school.

At a special meeting Jan. 22, the board voted to approve Hoover's recommendation for a 6.18-mill, five-year operating levy, a $33.3 million bond issue and a 0.5-mill permanent improvement levy.

According to district figures, the 6.18-mill operating levy would generate $4,485,000 in new revenue annually and would cost property owners $216.27 per $100,000 of home valuation.

The bond issue would add another $95.66 per $100,000 of property to the tax bill, making the total cost an additional $311.93 per $100,000 of property valuation.

For property owners with a homestead exemption, the total would be slightly less at $233.94 per $100,000 of valuation.

The bond issue would pay for just over half the anticipated cost of building a new high school, according to Hoover. The rest -- $29.6 million -- would come from state funds.

During the meeting, some residents, including past school board member Charlotte Barker, expressed concern about the levy campaign, particularly in regard to the bond issue.

"I believe the board and administration needs to concentrate on having enough money to educate our kids," Barker said. "I agree we need a new high school but there is not enough time to educate the public ... before we can ask for new buildings, our public needs to know how the buildings are crumbling from the inside out."

Board President Bryan Shoemaker disagreed and called for young parents in the district to step up.

"The under-50 crowd needs to wake up and get involved and take the schools seriously, because the over-50 crowd is dictating the education of our school district," he said.

Shoemaker said the results from a community survey "told me everybody is going to be afraid no one will support this levy.

"I think this community knows better," he said. "I think the public knows now what kind of dire straits we're in."

Paul Blackford, a resident and parent of two Groveport Madison students, said he believes consolidation and communication are the answer.

"I take offense to what you say," he told Shoemaker. " I'm over 50 and I pay a lot of taxes for the schools, and I think we need to consolidate down. ... I understand that the school system needs money ... we need to be able to talk to each other and we need to communicate and work together on these issues."

According to Hoover, if the levy and bond package fails, consolidation will have to occur.

"We need $3 million in carryover to stabilize the district finances," he said. "If the levy fails, in order to do that, we'd continue with the cuts to transportation, keeping transportation at the state minimum requirements. We'd need to eliminate the balance of our extracurriculars, including all sports, all programs and after-school services for a savings of $400,000.

"We'd eliminate all art and music across the district; 27 positions would be cut, saving us $1.563 million the first year and another $1.867 million following that," Hoover said. "And to make up the balance, we're in the process of evaluation of closing facilities and consolidating the middle schools."

If the levy and bond issue are rejected in May, these recommended cuts would need to be voted on by the board before they could go into effect, but the members all indicated they expect the proposed cuts would pass.

However, Hoover said, if the levy and bond issue are approved, the new facility would reduce costs enough to reinstate previously cut programs and provide funding for college and career readiness programs as well as eliminate student and pay-to-participate fees.

"If the levy passes in May, the new high school will open fall of 2017," he said. "We'll get an additional $1 million annually to invest in facilities on top of our current maintenance spending (about $4.5 million.) I think what we tried to do was look at how we could allocate that money to take care of as many issues as possible."

That list includes $750,000 to restore transportation, starting in the fall of 2014; investing $800,000 per year in textbooks; $450,000 per year in technology; $1.3 million combined in college and career- readiness programs; $450,000 per year to restore athletics and extracurricular activities; and $150,000 to cover all class and pay-to-participate fees.

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