By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Bowling Green school officials were disappointed but not dissuaded by Tuesday’s defeat of the 6-mill levy for school buildings. The levy was rejected by a vote of 3,471 (46 percent) to 4,021 (54 percent).
“I feel bad for the kids. I feel bad for the staff. I feel bad for the community,” Superintendent Francis Scruci said as he stood surrounded by levy supporters as the election results came in.
But Scruci and the school board don’t plan to waste much time moaning about the loss. They have some decisions to make. Do they go back on the ballot in May or November? Or do they try to patch up buildings with permanent improvement funds and add more modular classrooms?
“We’re not going to stop doing what’s right for kids,” Scruci said.
“We’re disappointed this is 20 months of work that came down to one day,” he said.
The 6-mill levy, lasting 37 years, would have raised $72 million for buildings. The plan was to consolidate the three elementaries into one centralized building, and to renovate and add new sections to the high school.
The levy failure was not due to lack of communication, since Scruci made nearly 100 presentations on the levy and building plans since September. However, in the last couple weeks, opposition to the levy came out with “a lot of misinformation” that didn’t help, he said.
The superintendent had said that if the levy failed, the district would come back next year with the same proposal – since it is the best plan to meet the needs of the students.
The school board members seemed to support that plan.
“We will go back and see what we need to learn from this,” board member Jill Carr said. “I personally believe in what we put out there.”
Board member Ginny Stewart said she was saddened for the students and teachers. “This is a blow to the community. This is a big need. As long as I’m on this board, and the rest of the board is willing, I’m ready to fight for this.”
Board member Paul Walker said perhaps the district needs to make the current building deficiencies more clear to voters. “There’s an obvious need. Anybody who voted ‘no’ needs to come through our buildings.”
Walker said the board decided on the levy and building plans after a great deal of studying and after conducting a community survey.
Board member Bill Clifford agreed. “This is based on needs, not wants. What we presented was the best option,” he said.
Clifford and other board members were disturbed by the conduct of some vocal opposition to the school levy.
“I don’t mind opposition,” Clifford said. “But quite frankly, I’m very disappointed when I see the social media and the personal attacks.”
Scruci said the district will now look at where the levy did well with voters and where the school’s message didn’t resonate.
“This is the first attempt,” he said. “Maybe there’s more to be done. Obviously we didn’t hit the right people.”
Scruci again stressed that he currently has no plans to scale back the levy request.
“Nobody likes taxes. I get that,” he said. “But until the state comes up with another way,” the district has no other options.
The district’s needs are not going to be solved with Band-Aid solutions.
“Six, eight, 10 years from now it will be a $90 million project. The cost isn’t getting any cheaper,” Scruci said.
Scruci emphasized that the loss of the levy was not a statement about the district’s staff.
“This wasn’t a vote against our teachers. We’ve got teachers working hard doing what’s best for kids every day,” he said. “I think this is more of a statement against taxes in general.”