Explaining the need for more taxes during an economic recession can be difficult, school board candidates said.

Explaining the need for more taxes during an economic recession can be difficult, school board candidates said.

Most of the South-Western City Schools Board of Education candidates think the current school board and Superintendent Bill Wise have made attempts to communicate the district's funding needs. Some said those attempts were inadequate because a levy has yet to pass.

District voters will elect three board members Nov. 3. Seven candidates will be on the ballot and a write-in candidate filed petitions for the race.

Two incumbents -- school board president Cathy Johnson and school board member Greg McCarty -- said several forms of media have been used to communicate the district's funding needs, but the issue is complex.

"The state funding system and school finance is very complicated," McCarty said.

"While the needs have been clearly defined, you can never communicate those needs often enough."

Johnson said officials have communicated the information through community forums, school board meetings covered in local newspapers, mailings to all residents, the district's Web site, speakers at community groups, television coverage, editorials in local newspapers, radio interviews, school newsletters, e-mail messages, key communicator meetings and national media coverage.

"The five-year forecast has been predicting this budget shortfall for years," Johnson said.

"Understanding the intricacies of school funding is difficult, but as a board member, I have worked tirelessly to get our state funding system changed."

Ed Palmer said the current school board has attempted to express the need for more taxes.

Nonetheless, "The issue with communication does concern me," he said.

"It seems that there is never enough communication. Our board needs not only to communicate its decisions but also the reasoning behind those decisions."

He said the superintendent and school board could stand to use electronic communication more effectively.

"We need to establish other avenues through which we can communicate and receive information and responses from our community members," Palmer said. "Communication is foremost a two-way street."

Karen Dover said district officials have made a significant amount of data available to residents.

"Evidently, the information disseminated to the public has not adequately proven to the voters a need that has compelled them to vote 'yes' on the last three levies," she said.

"I believe the voter is looking for communication from the school board that not only proves a financial need, but shows accountability in their decisions regarding expenditures."

Dover said expenditures should be "in sync" with values of the community.

"In addition, the decisions should also reflect willingness to compromise on key issues during these tough economic times," she added.

Adam Slane said he does not feel the school board and administration have been "constructive" in their communication attempts.

"A mere four years ago, we passed a combined 9.7-mill levy that promised to fix our budget," he said.

"Yet here we are again with a shortage. This raises very serious questions about the board's management of the district."

Slane added current board members have "stifled" community involvement.

"They voted unanimously to institute a 'gag rule' at board meetings," he said. "They refused to ask for an independent audit until after a recent levy failure.

"In short, they haven't seemed to show much interest in entertaining questions about their judgment."

School board members approved a policy in December that requires residents wishing to speak at meetings to register with the administration the Thursday prior to Monday meetings.

The policy passed 4-1 with Randy Reisling dissenting.

Jo Ellen Myers said school officials have communicated well one aspect of their funding needs. "I believe they have adequately explained that the personal property tax would be phased out over the next several years, but they have not given us a consistent explanation on what exactly the results will be," she said.

"Several newspaper articles have quoted several of the board members with conflicting answers. ... It seems like shifting sand to everyone we've talked to."

Rob Starrett said communication between school officials and community members has been inadequate.

"All we hear is if the taxpayers don't pass the levy there will be more cuts," he said.

"Endangering the safety of our children by cutting transportation and creating a negative impact on their lives by cutting extracurricular activities does not explain to the community why the SWCS district needs more funds."

Starrett challenged school board members to immediately restore busing and extracurricular activities.

"Tell us 'yes' or 'no' if these additional funds are going to be used for salaries and benefits," he added.

Sandi Davis also said communication is inadequate.

"Simply put, if the current climate of anger, frustration and divisiveness is any indication, the administration and the board have not adequately communicated either the funding needs or the due diligence in exploring creative ways to address those needs," she said.