To the Editor: Otsego does not want to spend any more than is necessary, so . . .
Written by Mary (Molly) Scott   
Wednesday, 17 June 2009 09:26
There has been tremendous improvement in the facilities at Otsego with construction of a new high school and replacing the middle school.  This was a first step with intent to later replace two elementary schools and keep them in local communities.  But a lot has transpired since 2004 when the bond issue passed with the understanding that the state would be providing 55 percent of the cost to update all the facilities in the district.  The economy has severely declined, the state has a significant budget deficit, and we fail to meet criteria set forth by the OSFC to build elementary schools in each community.
It is important to remember past reductions in property taxes have occurred with the roll off of 5.61 mills in1999 and another 12 mills in 2000.  Income tax revenues, which were supposed to replace the funds from those property taxes, have not provided the dollars originally predicted.   An error made by the state and county auditors, not by the school.  Per student spending is much less at Otsego when compared to other schools. Before $900,000 in cuts, per pupil spending at Otsego was $1,170 less than the state average, and $3,000 less than some districts in Wood County. This year an additional $600,000 will be cut with a portion of that coming from closing Weston Elementary.   The reality is that we will need more operating funds.  The amount needed depends on whether we keep three elementary schools or move to a centralized campus.
As a district, we still woefully need improvements to our elementaries. The board is faced with the challenge of trying to continue with the plan and ultimate goal of upgrading our school buildings during this time of severe recession. Perhaps more important is the need to retrieve over $13 million in OFSC funds our district is entitled to before such state funds are no longer available.  
Many argue about and fear the decline of our small communities without having local elementary schools to serve as an anchor.  However, decline of those communities has occurred despite the presence of elementary schools, and is a result of changes that have been ongoing for decades.
The duty of the board is to provide the best and most complete education to our children in a responsible and prudent manner.  How to do that in today's economy is an enormous challenge.  Looking at funding options to replace the elementary buildings and make sure we do not lose $13,700,000 from the state is the job we have given to this board and administration.  
The main message I see from taxpayers is that they don't want to spend any more money than is necessary.  If community members wanted local elementary schools and could afford to pay for them they would have voted for the operating funds to keep three elementary schools open at last May's election.  
Mary (Molly) Scott
Grand Rapids
 

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