By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci has been talking himself hoarse about the school bond issue on the November ballot. Monday evening he took the pitch to Bowling Green City Council.
In the audience were several teachers and school board members showing their support.
But in addition to explaining the 6-mill bond issue, Scruci also had to spend time dispelling what he called untruths in an anonymous mailer being sent out to district residents.
The mailer criticized the school district for not being open about the tax issue, and for not being honest about the costs to taxpayers.
Scruci did not hold back.
“I hope when you and your neighbors get this, you put it where it belongs, and that’s the trash,” he said. “It’s not worth the paper it was printed on.”
“We’ve been transparent from day one,” said Scruci, who has been making almost daily presentations about the bond issue.
The superintendent said the numbers printed on the mailers were false – painting a far worse picture of how much taxpayers will owe if it passes. That’s just not right, he said.
“You can mess with me, but this is messing with the kids,” Scruci said.
Though the mailers are from an anonymous source, a few people in the City Council audience believed Bowling Green businessman Bud Henschen may have been behind the material. When called after the council meeting, Henschen said that he was the person who sent out the 8,400 mailers.
His motivation was simply to alert the public about the school bond issue, he claimed.
“A lot of people didn’t even know there was a school issue coming up,” Henschen said. “That was the intent.”
“Everybody who owns real estate is going to get hit by this thing. Let’s let everybody know about it,” he said.
When it was mentioned that Scruci has held many meetings about the issue, Henschen said that city folks were getting the information, but not the rural residents.
Scruci just held an open meeting last week to explain the issue and answer questions from the farming community.
Though school officials felt otherwise, Henschen said the mailers were not negative toward the bond issue. “They didn’t say ‘vote yes,’ and didn’t say ‘vote no.’”
But Henschen acknowledged that he will likely vote against the bond issue. “Personally, I’m probably not in favor of it.”
The $72 million 37-year bond issue is unaffordable to the average person, he said. Henschen denied using inaccurate numbers on his mailer. “I’m not inflating these,” he said.
However, City Council member Sandy Rowland said she had just calculated what her tax would be, using the county auditor’s formula, and it was much lower than the number listed by Henschen.
Henschen said he wouldn’t sit by quietly and accept the school district’s information. “If they want an open forum, bring it on. I’m going to challenge,” he said. However, when asked why he didn’t raise questions at Scruci’s meeting last week with the farming community that he attended, Henschen said it wasn’t the right time. “I didn’t want to influence them one way or another.”
At the City Council meeting, Scruci described the bond issue which would pay for the building of one centralized elementary, plus the renovation and addition to the high school.
“Let me make one thing clear. This is not about air conditioning.” This is about giving Bowling Green kids better resources like other districts, he said.
Yes, the cost of $72 million “is a lot of money. We’ve never once shied away from saying that,” Scruci said. “This is a necessity to allow students to compete.”
The aging school buildings are also affecting the city’s growth, with families choosing to not settle in Bowling Green, he said. The new buildings will help the city bring in new families, which will then spread the burden over more taxpayers, he said.
“Help join us in making a difference in the lives of our children,” Scruci said to City Council and the audience.
One by one, the council members voiced their support of the school bond issue.
Council President Mike Aspacher said good schools benefit the city. “A healthy, vibrant school system contributes to the quality of our community.”
“There comes a time in every life when it’s your turn to pay it forward,” Aspacher said, asking residents to consider if that time is now.
Sandy Rowland agreed. “The time is here now to invest in the city of Bowling Green.” As a Realtor, Rowland said she is familiar with families choosing other locations to live.
“I know first-hand what they say about our schools compared to Perrysburg,” she said.
Bruce Jeffers, who is chair of the city’s economic development committee, noted the importance of good schools. “We’re well aware our industries need qualified people to work in them,” he said. “We need good facilities.”
Scott Seeliger pointed out that neighboring school districts of Otsego, Elmwood, Eastwood and Perrysburg all have new facilities. Bowling Green students deserve new schools, too.
“It’s a big pill to swallow, but it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “There’s no secrets they’re holding back there.”
John Zanfardino said it would be “very sad” if local residents listened to the “fake news” being spread by the mailers.
Mayor Dick Edwards agreed that Bowling Green students deserve new facilities also. “I feel very strongly about this.”