Rossford BOE field splits over $
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer
Saturday, 26 October 2013 08:38
ROSSFORD - The school board election is non-partisan.
No one is labeled as a Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Green.
It's every candidate on her or his own.
It didn't seem that way at the recent meet the candidates night for the Rossford Board of Education.
Five candidates are vying for two seats. At the table in the high school cafeteria, the two incumbents, Dawn Burks and Doug Miller, sat stage left with challenger Jackie Huffman, who largely agreed with them, between. A few feet down the table sat challengers Tiffany Densic and Susan Gluckin. All were ready to take questions posed in writing.
Though nothing was visible or stated, the line had been drawn.
While schools are facing major changes because of the implementation of a Common Core curriculum and a new state mandated teacher evaluation system, the discussion in the first two and a half hours of the forum revolved around money, particularly another item school district residents will decide Nov. 5 - a $32.2 million bond levy over 37 years to build two new elementary schools as the first of a two-phase building project.
Densic and Gluckin made it clear they would not support the levy. The district couldn't afford it. Officials needed to look at preserving the existing five schools, some of which date back to the 1920s.
Those buildings, Gluckin said, "are built to last forever." She cited a study that found for all their other many problems their were solid at their base.
They do need repair, including heating and "better and energy efficient lighting."
Gluckin said the board needs to balance its building needs "with what the community can afford."
Densic said that the school district was facing a financial crisis and now was not the time to add to the debt. Going into debt to build new schools would send "the wrong message to our kids."
"To me there's no perfect solution," said Miller. "We need to do something."
A whole host of issues needed to be addressed, he said, including safety and accessibility.
He said that whether he felt "this was the best solution" was irrelevant.
It was the option that emerged from the process to determine what the community wanted. The project was developed after over a year of studies, meetings and surveys.
"We listened to the people," Burks said. Right after a previous levy failed in 2010, the board brought together a steering committee that "included people from both sides."
"We feel this is a plan put together by the community," she said.
Huffman said "I believe we do need new facilities." That consolidation would save the district money.
Also, she said the school buildings would help attract people to the district.
She said "I would vote for any school levy."
Burks also noted that both people and businesses look to the quality of a city's schools before moving into an area.
Gluckin, however, said that high taxes deter people from relocating to a school district.
The looming deficit also drew a number of questions posed to the candidates.
Densic cited figures showing Rossford has the highest per pupil cost of any district in the area. Also, she said, Rossford teachers' median pay is the highest in the area.
She proposed a 10-percent reduction in compensation for administrators and teachers. That would include salary, benefits and fringes, and for teachers would include step increases for years of service and additional education.
Miller, who was on the negotiations committee, defended the recently passed teachers contract which calls for no increase in base salary for the first year, a 1-percent hike in the second year and 1.5-percent in the third year. Teachers will also pick up a greater share of their health insurance.
Miller praised the teachers "for coming to the table with concessions" ready.
Gluckin said the community could not afford the raises, and she would pursue reopening the negotiations.
Burks cited the "multifaceted reductions within the last 10 years." That has included reducing by 19 the number of teaching and classified staff positions.
But more will be needed, Miller said. The district was hit by the loss of the Tangible Personal Property Tax on businesses, and then housing prices collapsed which affect home values in the district. The district is always uncertain how much it will receive from the state.
"We're not going to cut our way out of this," he said. The district will need a new operating levy "whether the building levy passes or not."
Huffman agreed the district "is probably looking at a new operating levy next year. .... Sometimes you just need to go to the community for support."
In the longer term, though, she said, more development in the Crossroads of America area should provide the district with additional revenues.
Gluckin said that the state "made up" for the money lost because of the elimination of the TPPT.
Densic said her figures show state spending on education is up 2.4 percent in 2012 and 2.9 percent in 2013.
She said the district needed to cut spending, including compensation, but not by laying people off.