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MCS BOE discusses options for revenue

The Marietta City Schools Board of Education met Tuesday to discuss updates on the upcoming consolidation and restructuring of schools and the consideration of a new levy.

According to Superintendent Will Hampton, enrollment for the school district was down significantly this year, which has played a role in the recommendation to lose approximately 19 teaching positions.

“By consolidating and reducing our footprint we are able to be more efficient,” Hampton said.

Board member Russell Garrison highlighted that the loss of these positions will potentially be a combination of retirements and resignations, which will hopefully soften the unwanted impact.

According to the board, the current proposed consolidation plan in addition to the already confirmed elementary school closures includes two buildings for kindergarten through second grade, the establishment of an “intermediate school” in the former Marietta Middle School building for third grade through sixth grade and Marietta High School would absorb seventh grade through 12th grades.

“We are in a good position right now, but we still have a tremendous amount of work in front of us,” Hampton said. “Consolidation is going to provide some good education opportunities for our kids.”

Garrison then emphasized the “chronic underfunding” of the district.

“We are consistently bouncing around that bottom 10 percent,” Garrison said in terms of revenue percentile per student, as he additionally highlighted that there is an over $3 million funding difference between Marietta City Schools and the next closest school district in the county.

A primary reason for this disparity is state underfunding due to the district being considered “richer” from property values that do not balance with property taxes, according to Garrison.

Garrison said the Marietta district has not proposed an increase in the income tax levy in over 10 years.

“In that really tight budget we have been performing well, but we have had really tight constraints,” Garrison said.

Multiple options were proposed, with two becoming more transparent and preferable: an emergency levy on property tax, which would bring in a fixed amount each year, and an income tax levy in either the traditional or earned sense.

A traditional tax levy would impact all types of income, while an earned tax levy would not impact the retired population specifically in terms of pensions. These proposals would increase in increments of quarter percentages.

The board discussed the need to take action, as the proposed levy if passed to be put on the ballot will be up for consideration by voters in May.

Other financial aids, such as CARES Act money and the Permanent Improvement Levy, which is expected to be renewed, are not sufficient enough in helping the district make an ample turnaround, according to board members.

“When the funding is gone, we are going to be on a cliff,” Garrison said.

The resolution to send income tax levy information to the Ohio Department of Taxation to generate concrete numbers for Marietta City Schools passed unanimously.

“We need understanding from the public that our revenues are not where they need to be,” district Treasurer Frank Antill said.

Various board members also emphasized the importance of communicating with the community on how these changes will impact them financially.

The board will meet Jan. 25 to vote on the proposal to put an income tax levy on the ballot.

In other business, Antill addressed the need for the replacement of the roof at the Marietta Middle School building. The proposed cost is upwards of $500,000, he said. The board agreed to revisit the bids that have been proposed and look into the use of the engineering firm Pickering and Associates, as well as potentially seeking an overseer.

Hutchinson and Antill placed the idea of purchasing bus routing software on the board’s radar, mentioning that they had received quotes that would total around $15,000 but provide a more cohesive, cost-effective and convenient system for transportation. The new software system could potentially provide parents with an app.

Jenna Pierson may be reached at

jpierson@newsandsentinel.com

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