Pro-levy group rallies to begin campaign
About 100 supporters of Upper Arlington Schools' operating levy request on the November ballot gathered at the Amelito Mirolo Barn at Sunny 95 Park for a campaign kickoff Aug. 30.
David Wright, co-chairman of Citizens for Upper Arlington Schools, said the campaign kickoff was "intended to raise awareness and excitement around what the schools are doing and the importance of a yes vote in November" on Issue 51.
Issue 51 is the school district's 5.8-mill operating levy request on the Nov. 6 ballot.
If approved by voters, it would generate about $9.2 million per calendar year for the district and would meet its operating needs for three years, Treasurer Andy Geistfeld said.
He said the levy would cost homeowners an additional $178 in annual taxes per $100,000 in property valuation.
Wright said he and other volunteers would ask community members and local businesses to volunteer for various campaign activities.
"We currently have 75 volunteers doing various functions," he said. "We are asking volunteers to give as little or as much time as their schedules permit. We are requesting assistance with absentee voting, walk and talks, literature drops, phone banks, yard signs and public events."
Wright and Chris Yerington are co-chairmen of the committee, which includes Greg Overmyer and Tony Ruscilli, finance; Margaret Kennedy and Kimberly Orr, marketing; and Lori Trent and Brenda Gerhardt, volunteer coordinators.
The group's website is ualevy.org and it has a Facebook page: Citizens for UA Schools.
"Our website will be evolving and is a place where people can go to donate, request to volunteer, as well as learn more about the needs of our schools," Wright said. "We are asking people to 'like' our Facebook page to keep up with current events."
Wright said school district voters should understand that "the request for an operating levy is a routine process that generally happens every three years."
"It has been five years since UA schools' last levy," he said. "This is a 5.8-mill operating levy and will help recoup costs that will be lost in state funding over the next two years, as well as cover other inflationary factors.
"In addition, the 2012 levy is the lowest millage since 1984," he said.
Residents last approved a 6.2-mill combined operating and permanent improvement levy in 2007, with 4.2 mills of that amount approved for operating funds.
A 7.5-mill operating levy was approved in 2004; a 6.2-mill levy request passed in 2001; and a 6.2-mill levy request was approved in 1998.
Wright said the school district was able to delay asking for an operating levy because of cost-saving actions that included teachers agreeing to base salary freezes for 2011 and 2012 and administrator's salaries also being frozen.
Teachers and administrators also had their portion of health insurance costs increased.
He said the district reallocated employees among grade levels and schools as enrollment dictated; uses the Central Ohio Educational Service center to hire, process and assign substitutes for classrooms; hired new teachers at a lower pay scale after 42 teachers retired this year; and delayed hiring staff members when appropriate.
Other cost-saving measures included a freeze on building and department budgets; joining utility consortiums with other school districts to keep utility costs low; and using in-house staff rather than outside contracting for technology and maintenance needs.
"Upper Arlington has been rated 'Excellent' by the Ohio Department of Education for 11 consecutive years," Wright said. "The community demands extensive, quality programs, the best and brightest teachers and reasonable class sizes.
"Failure to pass a levy will impact class sizes and available programming," he said.