Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Thriving Schools = Thriving Community

Last week the Chamber's Government Affairs Committee, which I am a member of, sat through a presentation from Newark City Schools on why the 9.5 mill emergency levy is needed. I went into the meeting with many questions and was hoping for solid answers on why they needed this amount of money. I came out of the meeting with a clear understanding on the past, present and future of Newark City Schools.

Let's first review the history of NCS. Below are operational budget reductions that have been made:

  • In FY04 - reduction of 2 positions and changes in health plan and technology maintenance resulting in a savings of $200,000
  • In FY05 - Reduction of 7 positions resulting in a savings of $435,000
  • In FY06 - Reductions of 25.4 positions and changes in Liability Insurance and Utilities, resulting in total savings of $1,250,000
  • In FY07 - Reduction of 15.7 positions and funding 2 teachers from grant dollars resulting in a savings of $1,225,000
  • In November of 2006, voters rejected a 7.9 mill levy which prompted a reduction of 71 positions and changes in busing, text book purchases, pay-to-play fees for athletics, and clubs and increased school fees resulting in a total savings of $5,125,000.
  • In May of 2007, voters renewed the income tax for an additional five years.
  • In November of 2007, voters rejected a 4.5 mill emergency levy package which would have reinstated half of the cuts made in 2007.

On August 5th, voters will have the opportunity to help NCS stay out of the red by passing a 9.5 mill emergency levy. This will cost the owner of a $100,000 home $24 per month. If the community doesn't feel the education of our children is worth the addition tax, here is what will happen:

  1. If NCS can't operate in the black, they will be placed on "Fiscal Caution" by the Ohio Department of Education.
  2. If NCS and the State can't come up with a plan to get the district in the black, NSC will be placed on "Fiscal Watch" which requires the Board of Education to submit a financial recovery plan within 60 days. If they are unable to present this plan, then:
  3. NCS will go into "Fiscal Emergency" which establishes a Financial Planning & Supervision Commission to assume authority over the district.

I happen to have three children in the Newark City Schools system. I can tell you, you DO NOT WANT the State to have total control over our schools.

I just finished up a preliminary budget for the Chamber and I can appreciate the concept of cut, cut, cut. But when there is nothing left to cut, which is where NCS is, you have no other options than to cut crucial services and programs which will have a huge negative impact not only on the students, but on the community as a whole. Our schools are a reflection of our community. Companies will not want to locate to a community that is not producing top-notch future employees. Companies who are already here may look elsewhere to expand where they can find the educated workforce they need.

No one likes to pay more taxes, especially when the economy is struggling. I get that. But you must look at the bigger, long-term picture here. NSC needs our support and help. The Licking County Chamber Board of Directors recently voted to endorse the upcoming levy for the reasons mentioned above. I hope you will seriously consider voting YES for NCS. The future of Newark depends on it.

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