BG school board hears concerns about taxes, safety

Richard Chamberlain talks to school board Tuesday evening.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

An opponent of Bowling Green City School’s bond issue suggested a way for the board to bypass more property taxes – and asked if board members would resign if the May bond issue fails.

Richard Chamberlain told the school board Tuesday evening that an income tax would have a better chance with local voters than a property tax.

There’s a problem though – Ohio doesn’t allow schools to finance long-term building projects with income tax revenue.

But Chamberlain suggested the district could get around that rule. He pointed to the middle school addition currently being built.

“We must be moving funds around,” he said.

Superintendent Francis Scruci, however, explained after the meeting that the board borrowed the $4.4 million for the addition, with plans to pay back the loan with permanent improvement funds. Those funds were approved by district voters.

Chamberlain asked the board members about their plans if the levy doesn’t pass on May 8.

“If this thing fails, I’d say the board has failed us,” he said.

Then he took it a step further. “Are you going to resign,” and let someone else take over, Chamberlain asked the board.

Numbers presented by Chamberlain show that the school district’s annual funding includes about $20 million in property taxes, $3.4 million in income taxes, and $8.2 million in state funding.

The proposed $72 million bond issue, spread over 37 years, will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $200 a year in property taxes.

He suggested hiking the income tax would be better, since the district collects 0.5 percent in income tax now. According to Chamberlain, 89 percent of school districts have income taxes of more than 0.5 percent.

“We’re low. We’re stuck in this past mode of funding,” he said.

Brenda Pike talks to school board.

The school board heard from another citizen Tuesday evening, who said the district should not be spending money on buildings.

Brenda Pike said teachers work many more hours than they are paid for, and buy many of their own classroom supplies. New buildings won’t give the teachers more hours in a day or more materials for their classrooms, she said.

Many of the district teachers, however, have spoken out in favor of the new building proposal, and have talked about the improvements a new consolidated elementary could provide.

But Pike suggested instead that the district hire mental health providers, who can help children with issues such as anxiety.

“These professionals will already be in place” if a school violence issue occurs, she said.

Pike also said the district should invest in safety bollards and bulletproof glass for school buildings, and hire veterans to act as security officers.

During a previous meeting, Pike had asked for a breakdown of the $72 million school building proposal. Scruci provided those numbers to her. But she told the board Tuesday evening that she now wanted an explanation of why the cost was projected to increase 1 percent for each six months. Scruci told her after the meeting that the increase is for standard inflationary construction costs.

School board at Tuesday’s meeting

Also speaking to the board was Paul Tyson, an off-duty city police officer, who had spoken to the board at a previous meeting about using armed security at the schools. He asked Tuesday evening if the board had read the material he had shared.

Scruci said he had read the material. “I will tell you, Paul, it’s very disturbing at best,” he said.

Scruci mentioned that another school shooting occurred in Tuesday, this one in Maryland.

“It’s a concern on everybody’s mind,” he said.

Scruci mentioned that the middle school hosted an anti-bullying speaker Tuesday morning. “Maybe we can make a difference,” he said.

He also talked about the school safety forum held recently, and praised the community for coming together to talk about the issue in a calm and positive manner.

And Scruci praised the efforts by high school students who organized the walkout last week.

“I thought our students did an outstanding job,” he said. “They handled it maturely and their message was on-point. It says volumes about our kids and about our community.”

The board went into executive session with Police Chief Tony Hetrick and Fire Chief Bill Moorman to talk about school safety. No decisions were made by the board.

“This is an ongoing conversation,” Scruci said after the meeting. “We’ve been proactive as a district doing things with the ‘Boot,’” which keeps intruders out of classrooms.

“We’re considering all options,” the superintendent said.

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