Robert Maurer says he isn't anti-school or anti-tax, he just wants to know how Bowling Green School District will spend the $4 million it will get annually if its May levy request passes.
|A sign in the front of a yard at the intersection of Ridge and Enterprise in Bowling Green. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Maurer, a lawyer and landlord in the city, is spearheading a Citizens for Financial Responsibility campaign against the district's 6.75-mill property tax.
District administrators say the money is needed to head off a projected spending deficit.
But Maurer has issues with how the district is spending the money it now has, and takes aim specifically at salaries and per-pupil spending.
"I don't think they've done a good job telling us how they'll spend this money," he stated.
He specifically pointed out that the district has some areas where money could be saved, particularly in salaries.
He said in 2007, there were six people employed who earned over $80,000 in compensation. That number rose to 40 in 2009, and to 80 in 2011.
He said he got most of that information from district Treasurer Rhonda Melchi and the union contracts.
Melchi admitted those numbers are correct, except for one.
In 2008, the teacher salary schedule topped at $76,251, based on education and years of experience.
A new contract was negotiated that year for 2009-12 and teachers with the highest level of education and 27 years experience could earn $80,895.
"We followed the negotiated agreement" when paying salaries, Melchi stated.
Of the 197 teachers in the district, 52 teachers and 12 administrators are making more than $80,000 this year. And that number will go down next year with so many teachers retiring, she added.
Superintendent Ann McVey has pointed out the district has lowered its personnel expenditures from 82 percent of its budget in 2009 to just under 79 percent by shrinking its payroll.
Melchi said earlier this year that 78.7 percent of the budget goes to wages and benefits, 11.8 percent to purchase services, 4.3 percent to supplies, including fuel, 0.7 percent to equipment, and 4.5 percent to other expenses.
Maurer also claimed that two years ago, the district paid out more than $400,000 in unused accumulated sick leave for retirees.
"This year is far worse because they have more retiring," he stated.
The district to date has 19 staff and teachers retiring at the end of this school year.
Melchi also agreed with that number, but has not yet estimated what the cost will be this year with so many retirements.
She did point out that the Ohio Revised Code provides such payoffs for unused sick leave, leaving the district no choice but to pay. Teachers can't be paid more than 73 days of unused time. Teachers are allowed 15 days each year.
Maurer also claimed administrators in the district are paid more than required, and that per pupil spending is higher in Bowling Green than neighboring Perrysburg.
The two districts are not comparable, said Melchi.
Bowling Green covers 180 square miles while Perrysburg has 28. That additional transportation cost figures into per-pupil spending.
Also Bowling Green's poverty level is 34 percent; Perrysburg's is 11.9.
"Typically children who come from lower income homes have more learning disabilities," Melchi said, with a higher cost to educate.
In Bowling Green, 10.5 percent of students are thus classified; in Perrysburg, it's 8.5.
A combination of data, including these two items, make per-pupil spending higher in Bowling Green, she stated.
In Perrysburg, it's $8,540, according to district administrators.
In Bowling Green, it's $10,318 for 2011-12.
"We also have a more experienced staff than they have," Melchi stated.
Enrollment in Bowling Green is 2,941; in Perrysburg, it's 4,878.
Maurer also compared Superintendent Ann McVey's salary of $133,685 in a district with less than 3,000 students, to Perrysburg Superintendent Tom Hosler's salary.
Hosler earns a base salary of $126,814, not counting benefits.
Melchi also pointed out that McVey has earned a doctorate degree and has 32 years of experience in education.
"It's just kind of out of whack with what you think would be happening," Maurer stated.
"The district needs to take a good look at what they're doing," he stated.
"It's like looking at the numbers on a financial statement and not looking at the notes that go with it," Melchi said about the numbers being tossed around.
Maurer said there were about 10 citizens who routinely attend the no-tax committee meetings, but would not give names.
He is particularly irked by the fact that the district slipped in its State Report Card for last year.
"We currently don't have the best school system in the county," Maurer stated.
"Ironically in the past 10 to 12 years we have lost students but our costs have gone higher.
"We don't think it's working the way it should," he added.
If the levy passes, the owner of a $150,000 home would pay an additional $310.08 annually in school taxes, or less than $1 a day.
Melchi said she used a $150,000 home for her calculations "because in this community, a $200,000 home is not the norm."
Individual tax amounts on homes can be calculated by visiting the Wood County Auditor's Office Web site at www.co.wood.oh.us/auditor/.
The district does have three tax issues up for renewal in coming years. The district's 4.2-mill property tax expires in December 2015 as does a $1 million emergency levy. The district's 0.50 income tax expires at the end of 2017.
"This levy at 6.75 is a whale of a lot of money," said Maurer, who owns more than 75 acres within the school district.
Currently, the share of residents' tax bills that go to the school district is 58 percent for residential and agriculture, and 60.74 percent for commercial and industrial, according to the county auditor's office.
A "Vote No" mailing sent out last week claimed 62 percent of property taxes now go to education.
The mailing also outlined that the federal government has increased the amount of money being sent to the district, and that taxpayers are already paying for library, community center and aquatic center levies.
Federal funds can't be used for operating expenses, but are earmarked for a specific purpose.
"We have gotten more federal allocations this year than last year," Melchi said, but added that money is specifically for Title 1 expenses,
There is no community center levy; money from the city's income tax collection is used to pay off the bonds for that project, city officials confirmed.
Maurer also claims that teachers work seven hours a day for nine months each year.
"If you do the numbers and just stick to the math, you can probably come up with that number" that's on the Citizens for Financial Responsibility mailing, said Jeff Nichols, high school government teacher who has 22 years experience teaching at Bowling Green.
"It's easier to come up with statistics than explain the reality of what goes on," he continued.
"We don't punch the clock at 3:20 when we leave," Nichols continued. He personally works 50 hours each week with no additional compensation for that time.
According to Nichols, who also in the teachers' union president, a survey completed by teachers at the end of the 2011-12 school year showed 45 percent spent two to 15 hours more each week outside the classroom. Twenty-two percent spent more than 15 hours.
As for what Maurer is looking for, "I think reform is more the word we would use. We would like to see a solid plan on how they're using funds for the future.
"Nobody enjoys being against a school levy," he added. "It's like being against the country and apple pie."
His group just "wants to get the biggest bang out of the dollar we can."