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Our View: Best course for Waterloo, Field would be to pass levies

Best course of action for Field and Waterloo: Pass levies

Published: January 16, 2013 4:00 AM

There are no easy answers for school districts in dire financial straits, such as the Waterloo and Field districts, which are appealing to the voters for more local funding and confronting the possibility of a takeover by the state if they can't resolve their money issues.

A state takeover is by no means a magic bullet, Waterloo area residents were reminded Monday during a forum focusing on the district's financial options. Among the speakers was Roger Hardin, a representative of the Ohio Department of Education, who said state control doesn't wipe the financial slate clean but merely provides "solvency assistance" that must be repaid.

That means placing levies before voters until a funding request is approved. As a district's deficit increases, levy requests will grow to cover it. An even more drastic option, if it becomes apparent that levies have no chance of passing, would be forced consolidation; the state would step in and the district would cease to be.

Another speaker at the Waterloo meeting was Superintendent William Stauffer of the Springfield school district in Summit County, which has been in fiscal emergency for six years. He shared how that district has cut roughly 100 positions and is spending about $6 million less annually than it did six years ago, but is still digging out of its financial pit.

"There's a misconception: 'Just welcome the state in and they'll solve all your problems," Stauffer said. "You do not want the state coming in."

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Waterloo and Field have cut budgets, frozen salaries, eliminated programs and curtailed class offerings in their efforts to reduce spending. Both districts have seen repeated levy failures at the polls, which has only worsened their financial woes. Waterloo has a 5.9-mill emergency operating levy on the Feb. 5 special election ballot; Field is weighing options for a ballot issue in May.

Unless voters in the two districts choose to support school levies, there seems to be little alternative but to begin the path from fiscal caution to fiscal emergency -- a path that will severely curtail local authority over school operations. A state takeover, contrary to what some in those districts seem to believe, isn't a preferred option; it's a final alternative.

The best course of action for both Waterloo and Field to maintain control of their schools and ensure that young people in those districts receive the education they deserve would be to pass a school levy.

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anonymous Jan 21, 2013 12:38 AM

Windham School district is being released from fiscal caution this week. http://recordpub.com/news%20local/2013/01/20/windham-heading-out-of-fiscal-caution#.UPyWzwVkv7w.email

anonymous Jan 20, 2013 7:18 AM

First I really don't think the people which would come in from the state are the same ones which make decisions regarding state budgets. Your intentionally trying to over simplify things. As for the people in the district running the school, sorry but I honestly believe the unions are running the schools. As for the sharing of personnel that has been brought up before but I don't see it happening and probably wont unless they are forced to. I find it interesting that in your observations you don't look at the possibility of the schools actually learning to spend within their means.... sorry No more to give, I cant afford the taxes now. My pay is down and all prices are up, significantly. Plus you have the way the board is trying to use voter suppression by way of this special elect to manipulate the vote their way after being told NO several times. Maybe someone needs to lend them a dictionary so they can look the word NO up once. The way they are doing this I do believe all they are accomplishing is they are really starting to irritate many of the voters. I know I've had enough of it and will welcome some state supervision of the school. It's still a very firm NO from this voter and pretty much all the ones I know.

anonymous Jan 20, 2013 1:11 AM

I posted the link to the video http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/28485620 so others could listen.

What I found of interest was Harding's (Dept of Ed) statement school districts could "share services (such as superintendent or treasurer)" and begin "blended education (one teacher, multiple districts via technology)". That should be of interest to other school districts.

Here's a question for you - if state policies, procedures, legislation have allowed unconstitutional funding (over reliance on property taxes) to continue since the last century, why would you want the same state folks to come in and take over the operation of your school district that will still be funded by you and fellow taxpayers?

This is just my thought, but if the entity (state) responsible for the policies and procedures isn't getting it done (alleviating the over reliance on property taxes), I wouldn't want them telling me (school board and district residents) how things were going to be done.

The two options seem to be the state comes up with more money for all school districts or residents of each school district pay more taxes. Time for the people to come up with the third option which requires a new system or model. And it will be different for each school district community, as was mentioned several times during the forum.

anonymous Jan 19, 2013 2:33 PM

wow d_p you need to get into politics if your not already. Its mighty hard to use that many words without saying anything. Glad you were able to find time to travel all the way down to Atwater for the meeting but this is a local issue. You named the people there but failed to highlight what each said. As I recall Janet did point out that looking at the number of people having trouble getting their taxes paid already, things still arent good out there. John pointed out just how much money the state already puts into the hopper towards education. I believe that was in billions. The gentleman from the state board said that yes getting a loan which would have to be paid back is one of the options so is the possibility of not needing one. We would need to let them step in to help before that was decided. Also he was asked about how the schools rankings tend to do after the state steps in to help. He said contrary to popular belief they typically improve. Imagine that. One of the trustees in attendance stood and said his own mother wont vote for it. He pointed out that for many this has become a choice between giving the school more money and eating and that the townships sure arent run this way.

Sorry, but I think its time to let the state step in. it's still a very firm NO from me. I do live in the district, and I always vote.

anonymous Jan 19, 2013 1:53 PM

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/28485620 is the video link for the January 14 meeting. It was informative - information given by panelists to prepared questions, additional questions asked and responses made.

From the meeting/forum: There will be no more money coming from the state; the school charter requires/mandates what happens and in the event the school needs money to operate (including paying vendors and contracts), money provided through the insolvency fund to function at ordered levels must be paid back by taxpayers eventually.

This should be eye opening to every school district and the local governments in each school district. Each one of us, We the People, elect a handful of people to run our governments (on all levels) and school boards.

Atwater and Randolph Township trustees and fiscal officer were in attendance at this meeting (and have attended prior meetings with the school board); a state senator and representative were part of the panel along with the PC auditor. A PC commissioner was in the audience.

Imagine if that happened in every single school district in every county! Those elected by We the People represent those who supported and opposed their candidacy, but once elected they represent all of us.

Option 3 - We the People heard the policy for the procedure in place and were asked to propose ideas and suggestions for consideration as solutions. Since we elect (hire) and fund (with our taxes) people to run our governments, let's get involved, learn and come up with solutions for our school districts. It's our future and the future of generations to come.

anonymous Jan 18, 2013 7:45 AM

As one of the Randolph Trustees in attendance stated. Not even his own mother will vote for this levy. Enough with the fear tactics. The state does not come in and just take over. They have already stated that. The gentleman from the State also said at the meeting that they do not always come in and raise the taxes or did you miss that part also..................

I have a question for the board. the contracts you have negotiated over the past few years, do they reflect the fact that you were running out of funds, you knew you were? Have you been trying to reduce the percentage of funds at hand which is tied up in pay and benefits?

Just so you know this is what has been happening in the private sector. If you haven't been doing the same then you haven't been doing your job.

As for the board feeling the need to try "Voter Suppression" as a means of passing a levy. You should be ashamed of yourselves. You are not doing the job you were elected to do. "No" on the levy.

anonymous Jan 17, 2013 4:57 PM

Though I missed this week's special meeting at Waterloo, I was able to watch the entire video online. I know that there is no waste in our Waterloo District. Difficult cuts and decisions have been made to make every effort possible to meet fiscal responsibilies. If the state takes over, we give up all local control of our schools, and as we continue to vote against the levy, the price just continues to increase. The least expensive path we can take is to vote "YES" for the levy. The expense is not so great now compared to the accumulated amount later. I am a senior member of the community, and I'll be happy to vote "YES" for Waterloo children.

anonymous Jan 17, 2013 7:24 AM

hey if anyone at the RC is looking, I just love the way you have this set up now to take all extra spacing out and clump everything together into a an unreadable blob on the monitor.

must be a cost saving strategy.I'm sure that extra line space costs a lot in this digital edition.

anonymous Jan 17, 2013 7:21 AM

the writer of this piece seems to either have picked a side on this issue or wasn't paying attention at that meeting.

Regarding Mr Hardin,I agree he said those were options but that's not the whole story regarding what was said.

As for salaries frozen at the highest points they had been, I cant help but wonder how many of those taxpayers you are asking for more from had such an option. Chances are many had to deal with actual reductions by way of reduced pay, many with reduced hourly wage and reduced hours worked.

Then you come to the people on fixed income. just what hasn't gone up drastically in price over the past several years besides the amount they have to live on?

Did anyone else catch the part they went over where the question was raised concerning rankings of schools once the state steps in. I don't think they got the answer they were expecting because the schools scores tend to get better not worse. When asked how that could be all they could offer was maybe the teachers are afraid they may loose their job so they work harder. Somehow I don't see that as a bad thing.

I say welcome the chance for "change" and say lets welcome the state in to help sort this mess out. When the board thinks it's a good idea to try and sneak this through using this special election tactic, I say lets welcome some outside input on running things because those we elected are not working in our best interest.

It's still a very firm "NO" on the levy from this taxpayer.

anonymous Jan 16, 2013 12:51 PM


Here's the video from Monday night's meeting.

Something residents of every school district should watch.

The fiscal health of neighboring school districts, villages, townships and cities will affect our own.

Time for the third option.