Richard Strow: Lack of trust leads to ‘no’ vote on levy (updated)

I am a firm believer in a quality education, a strong community, and planning for the future. However, in good conscience I cannot support this levy issue.
I received my education in the Bowling Green School System, as did my daughters. Three members of my family have been teachers in in our system and its precursors as well as one member of my family has been in school administration. And yet with all of this positive history I cannot support this ballot issue.
I am going to vote NO for one simple reason: TRUST. I am saddened to say that based on last year’s campaign and the current unchanged attempt before the voters next week, I have come to openly distrust our Superintendent and the School Board.
We were promised truthfulness and transparency and what we got instead has been deception, distraction and omission of facts.
The BGSB and Superintendent Scrucci are asking the public to “TRUST” them with $72 million to build new buildings. The first deception is in the $72 million figure. According to the Wood County Auditor’s office the ACTUAL payback will be over $141 million. While $72 million just seems to be a huge amount to an average person, the reality of nearly twice that, is just unbelievable. Why weren’t we told the true overall cost? Instead they attempt to distract us by breaking down the cost to $1.07 per day per 100,000 valuation in an attempt to make the amount seem to be just small change.
The second deception rests in not revealing the district’s true financial status today and the written budgeting for the next 5 years. When I found out that the district has $13.28 million dollars in the bank and investments, I was shocked. Even more shocking is the 5 year budget forecast to the Ohio Department of Education showing not only deficit spending for each of the next 5 years but also a growing deficit each year for the next 5 years. This will push our district into bankruptcy in 2021, which could result in state takeover. Massive layoffs of necessary staff and elimination of crucial services such as busing and extra-curricular activities could result.
We were told by the newly hired levy consultant that this kind of deficit spending is common, and when the school’s account is empty the board will be back before the voters with and “Emergency Operating Levy” so we can just pay our bills. Based on their own numbers the voters can expect to see this levy request come in 2020 or 2021 so that the School Board can cover their fiscal responsibility shortcomings.
Why isn’t the district keeping future planned spending under control, and in line with a consistent revenue stream? Why can’t they operate under a balanced budget like they have done in the past? The contracts of our teachers and staff will be up for negotiations soon and if the current spending plan continues there will be NO money for any kind of pay increases and instead there will likely be layoffs and benefit cuts unless the public can be threatened or extorted to pay even more.
Whether we pass this current levy or not, it is obvious by looking at the board’s own financial report that they will be coming for another levy for operating expenses in the very near future.
NO legitimate established business of any kind budgets for 5 consecutive years of losses and NO bank would lend money to such a budgeting plan. And yet that is the direction our board is going.
They want us to “TRUST” them to be fiscally responsible with $72 million dollars. However, at the end of 37 years with the interest paid, the final results will be a total cost of $141 million dollars. BUT they aren’t being trustworthy with the $31 million they currently receive and the $13.28 million in the bank. That $13.28 million would cover 78% of the estimated cost of the renovations for the current 3 elementary buildings which been neglected over the years.
I cannot support this levy, our superintendent and board have shown that they cannot be trusted to be fiscally responsible with $31 million annually going into the future, and must not be given access to more taxpayer dollars until they can be proven worthy.

Richard Strow