ELMWOOD – Two petitioners who want to leave Bowling Green and transfer to Elmwood say it’s because the rural school district is a better match.
Dan Wilson and Scott Apple attended the June 22 Elmwood Local Schools Board of Education meeting to explain why they want to transfer school districts.
They were met with questions about motives, tax repercussions and voting history.
Both Wilson and Apple are farmers in Liberty Township and graduates of Bowling Green City Schools. They circulated the petition for the township to leave the Bowling Green district.
“Now it’s time to vote. Now it’s real, it’s not hypothetical,” Apple said about why they were ready to meet with the board. “Until this point in time, there really wasn’t much to discuss.”
Board member Melanie Davis asked if they got input from parents living in the township whose children would be affected by the transfer.
“We were both approached by several community members, that’s how we ended up as the petitioners,” Apple said.
Wilson said they found support from young and old, parents of kids, retired people, and some people who were alumni at Elmwood.
“We didn’t get turned away by anybody,” he said. “We didn’t want to force this on anybody.”
With open enrollment, families who don’t want to change schools can continue attending Bowling Green, Wilson said.
Davis asked their reasons for wanting to leave Bowling Green.
Wilson said where they live is very rural and the population has stayed steady.
“But it looks very similar to the makeup of your district,” he said. “It’s more of the similarities of the mapped area to Elmwood’s area, not only the location but also the makeup of our area. Working people who commute to work and agriculture.”
Superintendent Tony Borton said in conversations with the two men, he felt the move was more pro-Elmwood than anti-Bowling Green.
“We don’t want this to be portrayed in any way of spite of Bowling Green,” Wilson said.
Both men also have circulated petitions in other townships where they own land. Wilson circulated petitions from Jackson Township to McComb and Milton Township to Patrick Henry. Apple also circulated petitions from Milton Township to Patrick Henry as well as from Center Township to Elmwood.
“Those are different people in a different township, and they approached me,” Apple explained.
Board President Debbie Reynolds asked about the results from Liberty Township for the last few levies for Bowling Green schools.
Apple said they passed the last operating levy but not the last three bond issues for a new elementary.
“A difference of opinion with the administration and the board on that, but as far as operating it passed by about 60%,” he said.
Wood County Board of Elections results show Bowling Green’s March request for a substitute tax failing by 151 votes and the 4.2-mill property tax renewal failing by 84 votes in Liberty Township. Center Township, which also has petitioners wanting to come to Elmwood, also voted against both issues.
After being contacted about his statement, Apple said “I was wrong about what I said.”
He said the margin of defeat in the townships has historically been a lot closer for operating levies than it was for the bond issues.
Neither township supported the renewal of these two levies in 2015 but the margin of failure was between six and 14 votes in the townships for both issue.
Reynolds also asked about the tax repercussions if they move to Elmwood.
Wilson said his family owns land in both Elmwood and Bowling Green, but Elmwood’s taxes are lower on the agricultural land based on his tax stubs.
Apple said there is incorrect information that Elmwood’s taxes are 25% higher.
The number supplied by Bowling Green’s financial adviser was 20%.
According to Karen Young, the chief deputy auditor for the county, if using the same soil type to do a comparison, the owner of 75 acres in Bowling Green sends $2,002 to the school district in property taxes. The same acreage in Elmwood would collect $1,651.
Davis also pointed out that BGCS has a 0.50% income tax while Elmwood has a 1.25% tax.
“It could affect somebody who only has a house and a really good job. It may be more expensive for them,” Apple said.
This decision would probably be a moot point if the former Liberty school — located in Liberty Township — had merged with Elmwood after it burned, rather than Milton Center and eventually Bowling Green, Wilson said.
“The people that approached us don’t question the quality of the schools here. Elmwood’s got a great reputation,” Wilson said. “We’re not trying to put you in a bind or soil Elmwood’s reputation at all.”
The boundaries for the Liberty Township petition are Range Line Road to the west, Jerry City Road to the south, Kramer Road to the north and both Rudolph Road and Ohio 25 to the east. The northwest corner of this area is not included, nor are the villages or Portage and Rudolph or the Rudolph Road corridor south to Bays Road. (The map can be found on the Wood County Board of Elections website).
The men didn’t feel it was their place to dictate to either village that they should do this, Wilson said. “That’s something they can look into on their own.”
“It’s being portrayed as this is something out of spite,” Wilson said. “But I can assure you … this has nothing to do with spite, or angriness or drama. You’re not going to get an area of angry people that are going to micromanage you and look over your shoulders.”
“They were more pleased with the move to Elmwood,” Apple said. “The fact that they get to leave Bowling Green is the bonus.”
Board member Ryan Lee also asked, if the group has a philosophical difference of opinion for a consolidated school, why come to Elmwood which has been under one roof for more than 10 years.
Apple says it comes down to the number of kids in one building and the number of classes per grade.
“I don’t think your structure is a negative to anybody I talked to,” Wilson said.
Lee also pointed out that at Elmwood there will be fewer options – both in academics and extracurriculars – than are available in Bowling Green.
“Everybody I encountered said if there was a major hurdle, they would use open enrollment,” Wilson said. “Bowling Green has made it clear they’re offering open enrollment.”
Borton said there are already families in Liberty Township who open enroll their children to Elmwood. If approved by voters, he will send a survey to every family affected by the move to see if they have children that will be coming to Elmwood and whether they will require busing.
The change, if approved at the polls on Aug. 4, would go into effect the 2021-22 school year.
There are eight petitions by residents who want to transfer out of Bowling Green: Center Township to Elmwood; Jackson Township to McComb; Liberty Township to Elmwood; Milton Township to Patrick Henry (two); Plain Township to Otsego; Richfield Township in Henry County to Patrick Henry; and Center Township to Eastwood.
The Bowling Green City Schools Board of Education passed a resolution Tuesday to support a new law that would require those townships that vote to leave the district remain liable for their taxes to Bowling Green for at least 10 years. They would also be responsible for the taxes in their new district. The law change would be retroactive for those petitions that may pass in August.