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Passing Issue 51 is a return on investment

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Return on investment is a term that should be thought about regarding Issue 51, the Upper Arlington school levy.

As an alumnus, current resident, father of three and treasurer of Upper Arlington schools, I would like to lay out some facts and answer what the ROI is for UA voters when they head to the polls on Nov. 6.

The UA school district is one of only two in Franklin County to receive the highest grade of "excellent with distinction" 11 years in a row on the Ohio Department of Education's Local Report Card. This speaks volumes about the quality of teachers in Upper Arlington schools and level of education our students receive.

When teachers become employed in Upper Arlington Schools, quite often they remain in the district until they retire. Upper Arlington educators realize they are in a district that invests in them; in return, they remain dedicated, loyal and hard-working and have students perform annually at high academic levels. That is a strong ROI.

Community members have come to expect an unrivaled depth and breadth of programs and services in the schools that include:

* Small class sizes.

* Extensive Advanced Placement offerings.

* Numerous offerings in the arts and music.

* Extensive inter-scholastic athletic teams and sports.

* Extensive array of co-curricular activities and clubs.

All of these services have two things in common: They are a factor in the successful, well-rounded students that graduate from UA High School each year; and they require continued financial investments.

Our schools can no longer rely on state funding to cover operating expenses and must depend more on support from local property taxes. This support is needed to make up for an estimated $3.6 million loss in state funding ($2.6 million in actual loss to date and a projected additional $1 million loss in the near future).

The district has shown extreme fiscal diligence working to provide a strong ROI to taxpayers. Some of these cost-saving measures include:

* Teachers agreeing to base salary freezes for two consecutive years (2012, 2013).

* Freezing administrator salaries in 2012.

* Changing health care providers twice, decreasing premium quotes.

* Increasing employee share of medical premiums to 15 percent by 2014.

* Working with other districts to form a gas and electric consortium to keep utility costs lower.

Since the last levy in 2007, sound fiscal management stretched the district's typical three-year levy cycle to five years. Issue 51 seeks only the resources needed to maintain the nationally recognized educational opportunities offered by UA schools. That, too, is a solid return on investment.

While Issue 51 is asking for a modest increase in financial support from UA homeowners, the return on that investment will continue to be superior educational experiences for students and solid property values for homeowners.

Supporting Issue 51 on Nov. 6 is a worthwhile investment with a guaranteed return. This is an investment in our children and for the future of our community.

Andrew Geistfeld is treasurer/CFO of the Upper Arlington City School District.

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