Both the Wauseon schools superintendent and treasurer expressed dismay Thursday at a Board of Education meeting over the district’s defeated 2% income tax on the Nov. 2 ballot.
The proposed five-year levy, which would have generated an estimated $20 million, went down in defeat by a vote of 1,237-874. The levy, which would have taken effect Jan. 1, 2022, would have been portioned at 1.75% for operations and .25% for permanent improvements. It would have been used as a preventative plan to offset the school district’s growing financial woes.
The funding would have been used, in part, to retain six teachers for kindergarten through fifth grade, increase high school electives, and build an on-site bus garage.
Voters were warned that, if the levy failed, student busing would be severely curtailed, district personnel would be reduced, and all student extracurricular activities including sports could be eliminated during the 2022-23 school year.
District Treasurer Dave Fleming was visibly upset and emotional when he read a lengthy statement voicing his disappointment at the levy’s failure.
“Tuesday night, Wauseon experienced a crushing blow with regard to the community’s willigness to support its K-12 students and staff at an appropriate level,” he said. After thanking voters who cast yes votes, he added, “I find it stunning that only 874 people in the Wauseon school district understood the importance of this funding initiative…Essentially, the community at large gave our schools a failing grade this past Tuesday… I firmly believe we did not present a ‘large ask’ to our constituents. We merely asked the voters to get Wauseon schools caught up with our peer districts across the state and the districts in our four-county area when it comes to local funding support.”
He said, going back 10 or more years, “The community of Wauseon has been getting a very high-end product at a very low cost to taxpayers… I cannot for the life of me understand how so many people in this community were able to convince themselves that the position our schools have found themselves in is somehow acceptable at (our) anemic local funding level.”
Fleming said a lot of voters seemingly chose to accept false information about the levy that was shared on social media sites. “It appears as if people simply made the decision to accept this inaccurate information as truth…I find it very unfortunate there are so many people, so many Wauseon taxpayers who are clearly content to leave the bar set so low when it comes to financial support of their schools.”
Superintendent Troy Armstrong read a briefer statement which began, “…I’m saddened by the defeat of the 2% earned income tax levy.”
Armstrong said the public “was informed in great detail” about the levy through print and social media, radio spots, mailings, and community meetings he said were poorly attended.
“The consequences of this failure will be monumental,” he said. “Every employee of this great district works hard every day, focused on teaching and learning.”
He said the school district is proven to be financially responsible each year by a fiscal audit through the state auditor’s office. “To think differently is an opinion without factual evidence,” Armstrong said.
He said the earned income tax levy will return to ballot in May for a second chance, “and I welcome community assistance with a plan to get this tax passed for the future of our students, who are our number one priority.”
In other business, board members approved the following donations: canned food from Peyton and Thomas Richer, 30 pounds of ground beef from Phil and Lisa Aeschliman, 40 pounds of ground beef from an anonymous donor, $200 grocery donation from Rachel Smith and Nate Parsons Family, and canned food drive donation from Wauseon Youth Football, all to the elementary school food pantry; $25 from Joseph and Beth Flanagan to the Wauseon Athletic Department in honor of Bill Gase; $1,200 from Fulton County Dairy Producers to the National Honor Society; $1,200 from Fulton County Dairy Producers to the high school cross country team; tubs and supply caddies with brushes from Jacob and Rebecca Flores at Bargain Bin to the high school art department; and $200 from Biggby Coffee to the school district.
In personnel matters, the board approved: the Rachel Wixey and Associates substitute list; one-year limited classified contracts to Renae Wilson as middle school three-hour cook, pending a clean background check, and to Heide Klingensmith as a high school two-hour cook, retroactive to Nov. 4; the resignation of Mark Bontrager as a full-time bus driver; Melanie Wyse as a short-term fiscal officer substitute for a parental leave; amended minute #21-09-10 reflecting a start date change for Mackenzie Parker from Sept. 13 to Oct. 18; a one-year limited certified supplemental contract to Kevin Kreiner as archery advisor; and Chris Zirkle as a volunteer archery advisor.
Board members also approved motions to: Stephanie Wallington for a WHS diploma after successful completion of the Ohio Department of Education 22-Plus Adult High School Diploma Program; grant a request for early completion and inclusion in the Class of 2022 ceremony to Traven Yarbro; pay a “now and then” certificate for $3,805.46 to Earl Mechanical for a roof compressor; accept NEOLA bylaw policy revisions; accept a revision to the 2021-22 school calendar for a Nov. 10 all-staff in-service day and no school for students.; and accept the district’s five-year forecast.
They also passed a resolution approving an update to the district’s maintenance plan for a primary school building project connected to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission’s maintenance program guidelines, in reference to roof repair.
Wauseon Primary School Principal Blake Young gave a presentation on learning programs being facilitated at the school.
The board entered into executive session to discuss employment of an individual. No action was taken.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.