Licking County News

Licking Heights ballot issue

Superintendent spells out levy pass, failure scenarios

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It’s not a threat; it’s a reality, Licking Heights Superintendent Philip Wagner said of the game plan that will be implemented after voters determine the fate of a tax issue on the May primary election ballot.

Wagner mapped out exactly what would take place following a vote May 7 on an 8.92-mill emergency 10-year levy.

He was clear about what would be reinstated and enhanced should the levy succeed, and the continued spending cuts and reductions should it fail.

The levy is expected to raise $4.3 million per year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $273 annually.

In the general election Nov. 6, the same ballot issued was defeated decisively in a 2,776 to 1,693 (62.12 percent to 37.88 percent) vote.

At that time the district was forced to cut $2.8 million from its operating budget, including laying off scores of teachers and other employees, and eliminating high school bus transportation.

“There’s no threat in this, it’s just a matter of reality,” Wagner said of the May issue.

He said the district has reduced its budget by $4.1 million over the last five years.

“There’s nowhere left for us to cut,” Wagner said.

If the levy is approved, Wagner said there would be no additional program or staff reductions.

The district would restore nearly all positions that were reduced through the first phase of the budget reduction process in December 2012 and January 2013.

High school busing would be restored at the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

Pay-to-participate fees will remain the same as current costs ($100 at Licking Heights High School and $75 at Central Middle School, per child).

Wagner said levy passage would ensure several enhancements to the educational program, such as, elementary classes capped at 24 students per class, enhanced advanced placement and honors courses, world language offerings, an additional middle school technology teacher, a college counselor, a restored assistant principal’s position at South Elementary, and additional support for students in need of alternative education.

On the other hand, in the levy is defeated again, district residents can expect the loss of 26 positions, including nine at the elementary school level, three positions in the grades 6-12 level, five “special” teachers (including art, music, physical education and a librarian), and nine additional reductions, including three testing intervention positions, one title, one gifted, four library aides and a reduction in health aid hours.

Also, pay-to-participate fees would jump dramatically from $100 per student, per sport at the high school to $450, and from $75 at the middle school to $375.

Wagner said Licking Heights has one of the highest enrollment growth rates in the state and the need for the levy grows more crucial.

He said he does believe, however, the May levy campaign is garnering more positive support than the November campaign based on attendance at rallies and word of mouth.

Board member Brian Bagley agreed.

“I can tell you that the campaign has a large amount of positive momentum right now,” Bagley said.

“People are genuinely excited and determined, and that’s a fantastic combination,” he said.

“We didn’t see anything like this leading up to the November levy.”

Bagley said he hopes voters comprehend the May levy’s importance.

“Obviously, no one is happy about further cuts,” he said.

“However, I’m not sure the community at large understands just how devastating the second round of cuts will be should the levy fail.”

“This campaign seems to have more community support,” said Nicole Roth, a board member.

“We had a large number of people show up for the levy kick off,” Roth said.

She said the district is trying to ensure everyone receives as much information as possible this time around.

Roth said the district is using electronic media, including the Licking Heights web site, a levy web site (protectlh.com), Facebook and Twitter.

“There seems to be much more of a positive energy surrounding this levy,” Roth said.

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