Kettering voters to decide 6.9-mill operating levy for Kettering Government Schools in May

Posted by DarthDilbert at 2/17/2010 01:57:00 PM

Voters in Kettering City Schools district will be asked to approve a 6.9-mill operating levy May 4. The district’s board of education unanimously approved the ballot issue Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Members also voted to make James Schoenlein the district’s superintendent. Schoenlein, who has been with the district for 15 years, had been interim superintendent since August after Robert Mengerink resigned to take a job in Cleveland.

The owner of a house valued at $100,000 would pay $211.31 per year if the 5-year levy is approved, according to Sam Braun of the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office. It would generate $9.1 million annually for the district.

I was among a dozen other people who met with Dr. Schoenlein last Wednesday to listen to their argument for why we should vote for the levy. Steve Clark, Treasurer for Kettering Government Schools (KGS), began the presentation going over his background then showing an award that KGS received in 2007. He then went over the definition of a mill, assessed valuation. and House Bill 920 which he used to give an example of how the amount of tax is calculated. Next he discussed how the new state funding formula determines the number of teachers & other employees needed to operated at the minimum or adequate level, calculates the amount required to operate at the minimum or adequate level, and how the state and School District are responsible for their respective parts. In FY10, the amount of funding from the state of Ohio for each student was $1,658. We know that KGS spends on average $11,200 per student per year. By my math, this means that the citizens of Kettering are being taxed roughly $9,542 per student per year, and that will increase to $11,392 by 2014.

Schoenlein then read over a small report that expanded on what Clark had in that in his presentation it was from a marketing prospective than from a financial perspective. It began with the comment that "The Kettering City School District is a great place for children to go to school." This was repeated ad nauseum for nearly an hour. The fact that it is or is not a "great place for children to go to school" was never in question, the fact that they want to raise our taxes was and as easily dismissed as a trivial matter. The marketing presentation continued to boast and brag about their standardized test scores, graduation rates, where Fairmont graduates move on to, the Miami Valley Career Tech Center, and the Career Education Tech Center. At the CETC they offer classes in engineering, bio-tech, allied health, construction trades, digital design, information technology, automotive, and radio/TV. He then continued the presentation praising their Kettering Alternative Program, their "impressive facilities", "award-winning music and art programs", and how parents are offered the option of before-school and after-school child care.

His presentation then makes an amazing comment claiming that "The Kettering City School District has been Frugal with Taxpayer Money". They state how they have cut $7.6 Million as well as lower utility costs, eliminated through attrition and retirement (note they didn't fire anyone) 57 positions, administrators accepted a pay freeze, and teachers received the lowest pay raise in twenty years. After this, they write that "Only budget items that are deemed absolutely necessary have been added." They continue by noting that employees have been added "for the influx of immigrants who cannot read or write English". When asked later about this Schoenlein explained that due to this "influx of [124] immigrants" they have to support thirty-seven different languages. When asked how many were illegal they didn't answer the question. The presentation went on to describe the student population, and teacher quality making the argument that in order for a teacher to be "high-performing" we need to pass this levy. He then referenced the poll that they paid $19K to support their levy, and concluded with the statement that Kettering voters want quality schools; which again, was never in question.

He then opened it up to questions from those of us attending the meeting. I had made a number of notes the first of which was about the Career Education Tech Center and if there were any additional fees or costs passed on to the students who elected to take these courses as opposed to a class in German. He explained that the only costs for students at the CETC were for the automotive classes to provide for their tools. None of the other classes had any such requirement. The next item I brought to his attention was the before-school and after-school child care. Both of them stated that this program was "self-funded", leaving it at that, not elaborating any further.

Schoenlein stated several times as well that if the levy fails on 4 May 2010, they will go back to the voters again in November 2010, and continue to present it to the public until it passes. At one point he responded to a question about how they received around $150K for a program to have PCs in classrooms which allowed students to teach themselves. He said that this was not only stimulus money from the federal government which didn't include any additional costs to the district, but that it was "free money". When he made this comment it was like pouring gasoline on a smoldering fire. We attempted to explain ad nauseum that it wasn't "free money" in that it was money confiscated from taxpayers by the federal government. One person commented that this exemplified the problem with government as a whole in their failure to be fiscally responsible. At this point Schoenlein looked as if someone had slapped him down to the ground. His response, that he then repeated several times was remarkable in its arrogance: "On what grounds do I have to slash the budget?!?"

Keep that in mind when they ask you for more of your hard earned money at the polls on 4 May 2010.

Dayton Daily democRAT News

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