BELOIT- The West Branch school board Thursday night heard from both sides of the upcoming income tax levy before adjourning to an informational meeting regarding the May ballot issue.
During the visitor's comments portion of the meeting local realtor Valerie Park spoke in favor of the .75 percent five-year income tax, noting that property values could decrease and the students could lose valuable programs to help maintain excellence if the levy fails.
Resident Candace Neely countered with statistics she said she gathered from state records that showed between 40 and 60 percent of paid employees in the district live outside the district, meaning they will reap the benefits of the tax without having to pay into it. She also expressed disgust in the number of paid positions for coaches and extracurricular advisors, suggesting that the number could be decreased drastically.
Following the meeting Kim Lewis of the We ARE West Branch levy campaign shared information about the proposed tax, noting that Social Security payments will not be touched. She also noted that the district has not passed a new money levy in 22 years while operating on $1,000 less per pupil than state average and that the district has slashed $1 million in staffing since 2008 including 18 teachers, eight bus routes and an administrator.
Lewis explained that school board is not attempting to just raise additional operating money, but combat rising costs and decreasing state aid. She said the levy is about replacing the lost state revenue.
"It's not about adding anything," she said. "It's about keeping what we have and taking care of it."
Lewis said the school board is seeking the income tax because it felt that is more fair than a property tax.
If the levy fails, cuts will likely be imminent, she said, sharing a list of non-required courses and expenditures that will be vulnerable including high school and middle school athletics, band, choir, art, electives such as computers and technology, the gifted program, clubs and organizations and even daily cleaning of the buildings.
Lewis collected questions and concerns from audience members to help guide three upcoming informational meetings scheduled for April 8 at Damascus Elementary, April 14 at the middle school and April 28 at Knox Elementary, all at 6:30 p.m.
In other business the board approved the 2014-2015 school calendar including first day of classes on Sept. 3, last day June 3 and graduation May 31; accepted donations of $10 from Dean's Funeral Home for Right to Read Week and $200 anonymous for girls' basketball; and hired Heidi Truxall as a home instructor on an as needed basis.
The board also accepted the retirement of Jackie Hannay as an elementary teacher at the conclusion of the school year. Hannay has been with the district since 1988, most recently as a fourth-grade teacher at Damascus.
Additionally the board approved supplemental contracts for the 2013-2014 school year for Jennifer Zamarelli, vocal music assistant musical director; John Zamarelli, vocal music choreography; Walt DeShields, baseball co-assistant; Rick Mulinix, baseball co-assistant; Scott Loudon, baseball JV coach; Kevin Buckley, boys' track assistant; Jim Boals, boys' track assistant; Vallie Teague, boys' track middle school; Konner Lashley, boys' track middle school; McKenzie Wallace, girls' track assistant; Emilee Zets, girls' track assistant; Frank Edie, girls' track middle school; Abigail Fox, girls' track middle school; Merrellyn Banks, boys' tennis assistant; Larry Griffith, softball assistant; Brenda Sharp, softball JV coach.
Also at the meeting the board recognized President John Wallace for receiving the Ohio School Boards Association's Award of Achievement for demonstrating dedication to self-improvement, service to their association and work on behalf of the school board. He was one of 58 board members out of more than 3,400 board members in Ohio to be honored. The board also recognized senior Breanna Winters for recently receiving the Young Woman with Bright Future Award, sponsored by the Youngstown YWCA.
The next regular board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 24 at Damascus Elementary.