Springfield BOE discusses income-tax defeat

Carolynn Mostyn
Suburbanite correspondent
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SPRINGFIELD TWP. – Springfield Local School District Board of Education member spoke during a special board meeting May 7 about the failure of the 0.75-percent income tax increase.

The purpose of the meeting was for a first read of a new policy and procedures relating to suspension of administrators.

Board President Neal Hess read comments from Resident Miranda Terry who thanked all those that helped to get information out to the community about the tax. Terry said the community needs a change and the one-year band aid (referring to the one-time federal funding does not solve the financial problems.

“We need change. This district is being driven into the dirt,” Hess read from Terry’s comments. "We need to do better; change is the keyword.”

Board member Chad Lance, referring to another comment from Terry stating the district belongs to the community, pointed out that the income tax received less yes votes than the total number of students enrolled in the district.

“We have over 2,000 students registered and we had 915 yes votes," he said. "It doesn’t take a math major to see the discrepancy there. We are not getting parents out to vote for their own kids and their own district.’

Lance said the residents who wanted to vote no against this levy tax came out and voted. Those with children in the schools did not come out and support their children and schools.

"If you had one parent or guardian, come out a vote for each student it would have passed," Lance said.

Hess said the Board of Education wants Springfield to be as inclusive as possible and is welcoming to anyone wanting to make a difference for the children. He said he has I talked to people and has watched community meetings. Hess said were many people who wanted change, but added that there also were many who weren't willing to spend a penny to see the schools get better.

“I think people want to hear us tell the truth," he said. "We have to try to seek understanding. Terry talked about a change in the culture. I couldn’t agree more. I think we were doing that. It needs to change in the schools and the community.

Hess continued by saying the board needs to demand more of the students, staff and community.

“We all want the schools to be exceptional," he said. "We don’t have to agree on how we get there but we need to all agree we need to get there. I am heartbroken that again. It saddens me to see our staff go to other districts, and I don’t blame them,”

Hess said they had a teacher, and two head coaches resign. He said for the community meetings or board hours that were had held to discuss the tax and previous levies, hardly anyone attended. Hess said the levy committee meetings were a chance for people to ask questions and that only 12 people showed up – and 10 of them were staff members.

“When I feel like I am losing hope, I realize we didn’t get in this position overnight," Hess said. "This has been building up for decades. We are not going to get out of it overnight. This is going to take a lot of work and a lot of patience. It will take a hard persistent effort."

Treasurer Chris Adams, who said he is following comments on social media, said it might be a wise decision to encourage people to come together and give the district possibilities.

“We have to have new money,” he said. “We would all like a change from the state of Ohio (referring to funding for schools). Change is slow coming from Columbus. We are going to get trampled by are neighboring districts. They are not waiting for us to catch up. They are moving ahead and they are taking our best staff, students and athletes.”

There are only two items that can be placed on the ballot for funding schools, one is a levy and the other is an income tax. Hess said the district can’t have a bake sale to raise this king of money and that any community members who have ideas would be welcome to share those.

Board members point out the district has services that are mandated by law to offer and the cost of those rise each year.

Board Member Larry Petry said officials may need to get away from saying the district hasn't received new money in 20 years. He said the board has asked more than a dozen times over that period, but the citizens have not supported it.

Board Member Mary Lou Dodson said it seems like the district goes right down to the bare minimum and then we have to do cartwheels and stand on our heads to get the community to pay attention.

“I was sad about the tax being voted down," she said. "You can’t get people out to vote yes. These kids have mountains to climb in life and we are not helping them out by not providing them with what they need.”

Adams said the district doesn't mismanage its funds.

“We have to trumpet our school district and continue to do so. Good times are coming but we have to get our taxpayers on board,” Adams said.