Questions remain about Marietta schools levy
The Marietta City School Board has done a very good job of communicating the fact that the district’s current school buildings are old. However, I am very concerned with the board members lack of communication at the Aug.19, 2019, board meeting regarding the proposed 5.36 mill levy to raise $55 million to be repaid in 37 years. I have been checking the website, MCSlevy.org, and the answers to the questions that were asked haven’t been posted. Specifically, I would like to know what the cost will be for the land Washington State Community College (WSCC) is selling to the school district. Since the board isn’t prohibited from answering questions about the levy and Doug Mallett’s picture was in the Marietta Times article on May 21, 2019, when the agreement was signed with WSCC, he should have been able to easily answer this question.
The fact that the Marietta City School District has very little debt can be attributed to the taxpayer renewal of the Operating Plan Levy as well as the Permanent Improvement Levy. Now the school board is asking the taxpayers to create debt for 37 years. Consequently, taxpayers currently in their late 20s or early 30s will be eligible for Social Security before the debt is paid. In order to make an informed decision, taxpayers should be able to have questions answered by elected officials rather than referring us to the levy website or volunteers for the levy.
Another question I have is, if I vote in favor of the Levy, am I essentially giving the board a “blank check” on increasing the costs? The reason I am concerned is because of what I have read about the spending in the Warren School District. They are already almost $6 million over the cost approved by the taxpayers. One reason Warren is over budget is that the estimated construction cost from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission were 10 years old. Were the estimated construction costs for Marietta also based on outdated pricing?
While the levy is for $55 million, in the May 3, 2019, Marietta Times article, Russ Garrison said he is viewing $62 million as a ceiling. I need the school board to clarify whether the levy is for a maximum of $55 million or is the maximum $62 million. If the maximum is actually $62 million, the estimated cost per year will be more than $187 for a $100,000 home.
In the May 21, 2019, Marietta Times article, Russ Garrison said “the state does not cover auditoriums and athletics and they are looking into how much it would cost to refurbish what we have in existing auditoriums, gyms, and other facilities or do we build new?” What are the additional cost estimates for these facilities? How will the construction costs be funded? Will additional levies be needed?
I am also interested in seeing the design for the new campus and the building plans. The only layout of the new campus I have seen was an extremely small diagram in The Marietta Times. The layout isn’t posted on the levy website.
The financing for the construction of the consolidated school building will create enormous debt for many generations of taxpayers. If the school board members are confident in their solution for the future of the city schools, they should be open to communicating the details of the plan and meeting directly with the voters to provide explanations to satisfy any questions.