July 10, 2003



Come together on levy proposal

For more than two decades, Yellow Springs voters have faithfully supported the local school district, approving levy after levy that the Yellow Springs school board has placed before them. But a recent proposal from Superintendent Tony Armocida, which would place two levies on the November ballot, has caused a stir among the Yellow Springs school board, forcing its members as well as district administrators to take up an important debate on the plan.

The school board will face an important decision tonight (Thursday) if it goes forward with an anticipated vote on Mr. Armocida’s proposal. And even if the vote gets delayed, as it did last month, school board members will eventually have to decide which direction they want to go. The board should be bold and ask voters to approve the two levies, which will provide critical operating funding for the district and money to purchase computers and a school bus.

Given local residents’ steadfast support for the district, it may seem strange to characterize a school funding plan as bold. But the board would be taking a risk by placing two levies on the ballot at once, which some voters are bound to believe is an attempt by the district to get more money. (The proposal calls for renewing the district’s two property taxes at a reduced millage.) Others have questioned why the board wants to renew an operating levy since voters approved a school income tax just two years ago. After all, when the 1 percent income tax was proposed, the community was told that the tax would replace a property tax levy. Some have not realized that the income tax did happen to replace a smaller operating levy, which was not renewed in 2001. But much of this confusion can be clarified before the Nov. 4, 2003, election.

The school board’s debate about the levy proposal shows that its members understand what’s at stake when a levy is placed on the ballot. This discourse has been heightened and influenced by board member William Firestone, who has said he opposes the plan and wants to place one levy on the ballot this year. Mr. Firestone has forced the school board and district administrators to better articulate their positions on the levies, and move the district’s deliberations into full public view. Without Mr. Firestone’s position, the board would likely have not spent its last meeting discussing the pros and cons of the superintendent’s proposal.

The school board is fortunate that its debate has centered on when to put the district’s only two property tax levies on the ballot, instead of some kind of looming crisis. Getting voters to approve both levies now would help the district by securing valuable funding for at least the next several years. And with the budget crunch at the State level, providing financial security on a local level may be more important than ever.

There’s no counting on the State, no matter how long you wait for the latest budget projections. So why not place before voters an overarching funding plan that shows what the schools need from the community to be successful? This could provide peace of mind for parents, teachers, staff and students.

Last month, school board member Angela Wright said that she believed the school board will “pull it together” when it’s time to vote. Let’s hope she is right. Having a united board will strengthen the district’s position in the fall.

—Robert Mihalek