BLOOMINGDALE - The message at Monday's Jefferson County Education Forum was loud and clear: "We need what is best for the kids."
"The eight superintendents in Jefferson County have one thing on their mind constantly," Buckeye Local School District Superintendent Mark Miller said, "what is best for the kids."
Miller joined Indian Creek Local Superintendent John Rocchi, Edison Local Superintendent Bill Beattie and Jefferson County Joint Vocational School Superintendent Dale Edwards at the JVS to present information to the public regarding their prospective levy issues on the Nov. 6 ballot.
EDUCATION?FORUM — The Jefferson County Education Forum was held Monday night at the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School and superintendents from Buckeye Local, Edison Local, Indian Creek Local and the JVS were on hand to discuss their levy issues on the Nov. 6 ballot. On hand for the event were, from left, Dale Edwards, JVS superintendent; John Rocchi, Indian Creek superintendent; Joy Howell, Jefferson County Education Service Center superintendent; Mark Miller, Buckeye superintendent; and Bill Beattie, Edison superintendent. - Jess Looman
Buckeye Local School District is seeking an additional 2 mills for permanent improvements for a continuing period of time, while the Edison Local School District is seeking an additional 9.45 mills for current expenses for a continuing period of time. Indian Creek Local School District is seeking a bond issue of 3.5 mills for constructing school facilities under the exceptional needs program of the Ohio School Facilities Commission and locally funded initiatives; renovating, improving and constructing additions to existing facilities, including furnishings and equipment; acquiring land and interests in land as necessary, in the principle amount of $22 million for 37 years; and additional 1.45 mills for current expenses for five years. The JVS is seeking an additional 1 mill for current expenses, purchasing equipment for buildings and improving buildings for 10 years.
Joy Howell, Jefferson County Education Service Center superintendent, served as moderator for the event. Two issues discussed included why each district is seeking additional funds and how those funds will be used; and how will the approval of funding change and impact student learning today and in the future.
Edwards began by informing attendees that it has been 18 years since a new operating levy has been approved at the JVS.
"We have been running on the same funds since 2006," he began. "We will use this money to partly restore the losses we have incurred as well as improve buildings and grounds. We have had leaks in the roof recently and have had to replace tile in the building each time. We are looking to protect what is inside."
He also noted new updates to labs and purchase of new equipment that students would be able to use in the workplace would be on the list of purchases.
"We are looking to purchase equipment for our 911 early dispatch simulation system, diesel engines for our mechanics program, an alignment system for the automotive program and welding lab equipment," he explained. "We would also like to expand our health tech program. It has always been a big program, and our goal is to be able to tend to more students interested in health care.
"The passage of this levy would be an investment and a way of producing skilled workers to stay here and work in the valley," he said. "Our students not only receive diplomas but they also receive certificates and leave here with skills to make them successful in the workplace. We want to continue to make this school better and get our students ready for the future."
Beattie stated that operating costs and replacing lost funds would be the main goal of the 9.45-mill levy in the Edison school district.
"We have not passed an operating levy since 1977," he said. "We passed a 2.1-mills emergency levy in 1995, but in the last seven years we have lost approximately $2.1 million in the district. Since the 2004-05 school year, we have cut 115 positions, and since 2010, we have cut 46 due to funding. It is hard for us to go any further with cuts. We have made all the cuts we can internally and if we don't pass this levy, the cuts will be deeper and may possibly affect residents more."
Beattie also mentioned the 2.1-mill emergency levy will expire in 2014.
"Once the emergency levy is expired, it will reduce the 9.45-mill levy to 7.3 mills, which will reduce what residents pay annually," he noted.
"Something for our residents to keep in mind is this: The Edison district could possibly be absorbed if levies continue to fail because there are a lot of other districts nearby," Beattie explained. "If that is the case, take a good look at the millage of the district where your residence may end up. Most of the millages surrounding the Edison district are higher. You will not have a choice but to pay the millage of the district that you are switched to."
Beattie added the district "has good academic programs and have been successful in the past."
"However, if we keep having to make cuts, that will just affect what is going on in the classroom," he said. "Our district is at a crossroads. If we do not pass this levy in November, we will be at a $300,000 deficit in June. If we do not pass this levy in February, we will be at a $2 million deficit by June 2014.
"We have great students and teachers and they deserve what is best," he said.
Rocchi began his session by stating "students in Jefferson County deserve what is being offered around the rest of Ohio and the East Coast."
"These students deserve programs, support and facilities that other students in the state are offered," he said. "I urge residents to look outside the box. This is about the kids in Jefferson County. We need schools that can compete and that attract people to live here. Indian Creek has had portable classrooms since the 1960s because our current high school cannot fit the 700 students we serve. The state is currently giving us $8 million to build a new high school, and we are not sure when that will go away if we don't pass this levy."
He stated there are three things to keep in mind regarding the levy: The district is receiving $8 million from the state for a new high school; $5 million will be for renovations of other facilities, and $1.45 million will help maintain teachers, support staff and programming.
"Our buildings need repaired," he said. "Without the money to renovate we will be forced to cut more positions and close buildings."
Rocchi also praised the Indian Creek community.
"We have great students, teachers, parents and administrators," he stated. "We need the community to support the kids and education. We need to be able to provide 21st century education and facilities. We can promote life skills but we need the equipment to do so. We need to keep our students in Jefferson County after they graduate. We have housing, good people and a great work force in Jefferson County. We need to be able to better train these students in the classroom and prepare them for the future. I cannot stress the importance of getting out and voting on Nov. 6."
Miller then explained the Buckeye levy is focused on the three "B's" - books, buildings and bus fleet.
"Everything that comes out of this levy money will go directly to the kids," he stated. "The high school needs a new roof, and we are looking at renovating the security system, buying new textbooks and computers and adding to our bus fleet.
"I am proud of our students, teachers and parents," he continued. "We have been named a district of excellence for two years in a row. Everyone in this district works hard, and the students deserve the best. They deserve the chance to excel and they deserve what other districts have. We just need a little help to get there."
For information on the levy issues, contact the respective school districts.