Clinton-Massie Supt. Baker: Proposed tax levy would bring funding stability

News Journal

Voters in the Clinton-Massie Local Schools District (CMLSD) will decide the fate of a proposed 5.8-mills fixed-sum tax levy on Nov. 7.

The yearly tax for an owner of a $100,000 residential property in the district would increase by $203 if the property tax levy were to pass. The yearly tax for an owner of a $200,000 residential property would increase by $406 if the levy passes.

The News Journal submitted five questions to Clinton-Massie Superintendent Matt Baker. For this article, his answer to each question follows immediately after the question.

1) Will you elaborate a little on the following statement you made at a community forum in March: “Finances will have to be stabilized if Clinton-Massie is going to be the best district in the region.”

1) There is an old saying in business that states you cannot cut your way to prosperity. Since Fiscal Year ’10 CMLSD has cut $2.95 million out of our budget. These cuts have resulted in our district losing teaching positions and support staff while closing programs that benefit our students.

Stabilizing the finances within the Clinton-Massie Local School District will allow us to focus on expanding opportunities for students of all needs and abilities. Financial stability will also allow us to strengthen the training and longevity of our staff. To be the best in the region we need to increase our graduation rate, meet more state indicators on the report card, continue to expand our focus on a safe and secure facility and increase our resources to help students with special needs while accelerating those who are gifted. This takes an investment in people and materials.

We have tried to be good stewards of the community’s tax dollars but as unfunded state mandates and expenses have risen we are forced to employ the only system the state gives us for increased revenue, a tax levy.

2) What are the expectations if the five-year levy were to pass?

2) First and foremost we would hire/retain highly qualified staff through competitive salaries. In the last five out of eight years Clinton-Massie teachers have not received a base raise on their salaries. We have lost excellent teachers who have found higher paying jobs not too far from our district.

We would expand all-day kindergarten and hire staff to lower concerning elementary class sizes. We would look at expanding our new Agricultural Education elective to a full-day program which would allow us to start FFA. We would also want to look into the S.T.E.A.M. [Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math] education options for our MS and HS students.

Student fees such as those charged for student laptops, pay-to-play, and transportation will be eliminated to allow participation for all students no matter their economic status. Participating in a club, extra-curricular activity, art or music program, etc. increases the possibility for a student to graduate by 45 percent. These activities have been statistically proven to increase attendance rates, lower substance abuse in teens, and curtail delinquency behaviors inside and outside of school.

Maintenance projects that have been postponed due to a lack of funds will be analyzed and triaged. I heard many claims that we will use this money for new stadium bleachers. This is not the case. A new bleacher project would be close to $1 million and we simply will not have that money to parcel out even with the passage of a levy. These are just a few examples.

3) What are the expectations if the levy were to get voted down?

3) If the levy gets voted down we will take a methodical approach to how we can eliminate expenditures. Unfortunately we will have to reduce staffing to bridge the deficit gap that will exist. Elective programs that are outside the required state mandates will be reviewed for their ability to be solvent.

There would be a probable increase in the size of elementary classes, a slowdown in acquiring access to current technology, fees such as pay-to-play would rise, and updates to curriculum would become stagnant. These are just a few examples.

4) How would you respond to someone who says they would support a 3-mills levy, but not the 5.8-mills levy on the ballot?

4) I would be very thankful for their support. We worked long and hard coming up with a number that would allow us to stay away from returning to the ballot to ask for more money any time soon. Unfortunately a 3-mill levy would not have allowed us to reach our goal.

5) Anything you want to add?

5) The Clinton-Massie Board of Education understands that this proposed levy is not the right fit for everyone. Some large property owners or families with little or no connection to the school may not be able to justify their increase in taxes. As I heard a local resident say recently, “That does not mean they hate Clinton-Massie or they do not support what we are doing here.” It’s a hard business decision. We too have to make hard business decisions.

The State of Ohio gives us basically one option to increase revenue and that is to ask for more local support through tax levies. The system is broken and has been proven unconstitutional numerous times, but that is the system we must work within.

I have heard comments and received emails stating for us to “live within our means”. Statements like “I have a budget at my household and if I can’t afford it, I don’t buy it” have been shared with me numerous times. I respect that perspective. There is a large difference in a household budget and a state-supported public school, not just in dollar figures but in adaptability to deficit spending.

CMLSD is subject to many state-controlled parameters where saying no to certain expenses is not an option. I understand the logic of reducing expenditures to save money but not everything the state demands of us is logical. Let’s take the savings produced by keeping your air conditioning off or heat turned down low. Imagine the state comes into your household and says in order to keep your home you must raise your temperature to a state-determined number no matter what the cost. You must also run fans constantly to exchange the air and produce acceptable numbers for air quality standards.

Another example would be that cheap meal that you wanted to purchase does not meet the standards the state says you can serve in your household. You are told by the state, with threat of funding being pulled, that you must purchase more expensive food and give it to your family even if they refuse to eat it. We could give many more examples where unfunded mandates have caused inflexible spending requirements.

I hope no matter what outcome comes from this levy we can return quickly to a united Falcon Family. And as always … GOOOOO Falcons!!

News Journal