At a school board meeting largely devoted to pro-levy statements from a number of civic and political leaders, Reynoldsburg Mayor Brad McCloud pointed out last week that the city and the school district have "ushered in a new era and a new level of cooperation."

At a school board meeting largely devoted to pro-levy statements from a number of civic and political leaders, Reynoldsburg Mayor Brad McCloud pointed out last week that the city and the school district have "ushered in a new era and a new level of cooperation."

"There have been a number of recent innovations in the relationship between the city and the schools. One of them is the joint ad hoc committee that has explored opportunities to pool resources to see if there are ways we can save taxpayer money," he said. " ... I look forward to continuing this relationship."

Superintendent Steve Dackin agreed, citing the establishment of a new intergovernmental committee that so far includes himself and McCloud, district treasurer Tammy Miller, business manager Ron Strussion, city auditor Richard Harris, safety service director Pam Boratyn and Councilman Barth Cotner. The committee will also include a member of the school board, yet to be named.

"It's just not about coming together and talking about the plight of things in the city and how we can benefit one another and that we are ultimately here to serve our public," Dackin said. "It's also trying to realize efficiencies between the two entities because in the end, we get our financial support from the same people - and that is the taxpayers."

State Rep. Marian Harris (D-Columbus), city council President William Hills, Councilman Barth Cotner, who owns a local business, and Reynoldsburg Area Chamber of Commerce president Jan Hills spoke at the April 20 school board meeting in favor of the district's 6.9-mill incremental operating levy on the May 4 ballot.

Hills said even though he is skeptical of tax requests, he believes the district needs the money the levy would generate. He pointed out that more than 100 district jobs have already been eliminated, staff members and administrators have been given pay cuts and members of unions representing teachers and other district employees have taken pay freezes.

"That's not just the cost of living we hear about and see about, but that's the steps that no one knows about and the bonuses no one knows about," Hills said. "The unions and teachers need to be acknowledged for what they have done. This is beyond what teachers and employees normally do."

Harris said supporting a tax increase "is probably not the smartest thing in the world for me to be doing, but I believe strongly enough in it that I'm willing to say it publicly.

"I wish the state could do more for you," she said. "We're facing similar situations in trying to balance the budget, but we managed to hold down education funding fairly steady."

Chamber president Jan Hills said the organization has been a supporter of school issues for many years and recognizes how important quality schools are to a quality community.

"Small business owners know that if you don't invest in your company, even when it's tough, you risk falling behind, and once you're behind, things can decline very quickly and before you know it, you're belly-up.

"It's time for us to invest in our community," she said. "We can decline the levy and watch everything we value deteriorate or we can invest now and work toward a brighter future."

Cotner said as a longtime resident and business owner, he believes the levy is a necessity for the community.

"Our schools are a necessity. They are a value to our community," he said. "We need to maintain our excellent schools if we want to have the kind of community of which we can be proud."

dowen@thisweeknews.com