There is a George Jones song entitled, "Choices." Part of the lyrics for this song include a line that goes like this ... "living and dying with the choices I've made." We can change the "I've" to "we've," and I think this will fit with the choice we have to make in November.
First I would like to give the correct mathematical equation for figuring out how much the 9.19-mil levy would raise everyone's taxes. I received a letter in the mail, as I'm sure most people did, giving the new market and taxable value of my home. If you take the market value given and multiply by 35%, it should give you the taxable value that is listed. For example market value = $100,000 x .35 = Taxable value or $35,000. Then take the taxable value and multiply by .00919. This equals ($35,000 x .00919) or $321.65. A home with a market value of $100,000 will raise your taxes $321.65 per year. This is a large number, but let us break it down a little. This equals 88 cents per day over the year. I understand that some people can't afford one more cent a day, but many of us can if we look at priorities. So we have to ask ourselves the next time we pay our cell phone bill, or go through McDonald's for that large sweet tea, if we could maybe cut something out that would help our children's education. I'm not going to preach on this, as this is everyone's personal decision and they have the right to do whatever they please, as this is still the United States of America for now.
Now I will give some factual numbers as to why this choice even has to made. When I graduated way back in 1997, Frontier Local Schools had an enrollment of 1,077. This year (2013) when final numbers were tallied it looks like 720 students will attend a school somewhere in the Frontier Local district. This means we have lost 357 students over the last 16 years which equals 22 per year. The state of Ohio now funds schools based on enrollment.
Why did these enrollment numbers go down?
If you look at census numbers for live births during this time period, the percentage that goes on to attend Frontier has remained about the same. I think the No. 1 reason is simple, there just aren't as many kids as there were in the past. I can speculate and relate this to people just not having as many kids as they did in the past. Another speculation would be the kids that do graduate leave the area and never come back because of a poor job market. Again these are just my speculations.
Next I will give a brief summary of our finances from the past few years. At the end of June, 2011 we had $1.8 million in the bank. Today, we have $1 million and look to lose approximately $300,000 this year. The forecast will show a balance of nearly $700,000 come June 30, 2014. That is $1.1 million in three years that we have spent more than we have taken in. This trend looks to continue until financial emergency.
Why did we spend $1.1 million more than we took in?
Loss of enrollment which equals less state aid.
Loss of federal and state monies i.e.: Reading 1st, State Stabilization, Education Jobs, etc.
Increased insurance costs.
OK, we could just cut spending and balance the budget. However, we have cut as many teachers, administrators, and other positions that I feel we can without hurting the quality of education we provide any more than we already have. The only thing left to cut is buildings.
Some may say well just cut the teacher's pay. Currently, we offer the second lowest 30-year earning potential in the state. Contracts that have been negotiated in the past offer step raises to the teachers, based on years of service and education. The pay our teachers receive is less than desirable for the education that they have to put in to get a teacher's license. I have personally witnessed some good first-year teachers leaving after one or two years because the pay is greater everywhere else. The only staff we are going to keep now are ones that have ties to the area already, or come in and really like the area. I can assure you none of them are staying for the money.
Finally, I'll give you just a few more things to think about. The state of Ohio's funding system is broken. I have contacted state representatives that agree. It has been deemed unconstitutional, but nothing changes. The small school districts in southeastern Ohio have been forgotten by the big shots in Columbus. This is why we have to ask that you, the residents of Frontier Local Schools, foot the bill to educate our kids. If we want things to remain the way they are and maybe possibly give the kids a better education, we need to pass this levy. If not we will be "living and dying with the choices we've made."
Justin Hoff, president
Frontier Local Board of Education