Prohibit Sylvania School District's 0.9 Mills Safety/Security Levy ballot initiative
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The Sylvania City School District Superintendent, Dr. Adam Fineske, previously pursued to seek Ohio State congressional support and funding, through the amendment of the Ohio House Bill 24 (H.B. 24). H.B. 24 was signed into law by Ohio Gov. John Kasich during March of 2018, with an amendment titled "The Sylvania Amendment."
H.B. 24, primarily deals with the modification of veterans organization property tax exemption and Medicaid provider rates. Dr. Fineske was able to lobby Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) to add the “The Sylvania Amendment.” Mr. Jim Provance, of the Toledo Blade (2018) reported this amendment to H.B. 24, provides the details, according to our lawmakers’ meaning of “school safety and security,” naming the following key points, “permanent improvements to buildings, hiring of safety personnel, training, mental health services, counseling and other related but unspecified purposes” (para 9-10). According to Dr. Fineske’s presentation to the district, this bill now allows more flexibility for what can be included in a special safety and security levy. The amendment now allows monies collected through this levy to be used for permanent improvements to improve or enhance security, employment of or contracting for the services of safety personnel, providing health services and counseling, and providing training in safety and security practices and responses.
This is an example of a “rider,” bill, a common practice exercised in our legislative government. Mr. Robert Longley (2018) explained that ““riders” are bills in the form of additional provisions added to the original versions of bills or resolutions considered by Congress. Often having little relationship to the subject matter of the parent bill, riders are typically used as an often-criticized tactic intended to gain the enactment of a controversial bill that would probably not pass if introduced on its own” (para.1).
The honorable member of the board, Mr. Jim Nusbaum, during Sylvania City School Board's meeting held on July 23, 2018, stressed the importance that the Sylvania City School District taxpayers deserve the opportunity to have our voices heard. Sadly, I do not foresee that opportunity will be given to the Sylvania City School District taxpayers, due to the rush to meet the 90-day deadline to get this proposed levy on the ballot for this November. To get this proposed levy on the 2018 November ballot, the Sylvania City School Board must file the Resolution of Necessity, according to the Ohio Ballot Questions and Issues Handbook, to earn the certification by the Taxing Authority to the Board of Elections and County Auditor (2018, p. ‘2-9’). In-turn, the certificate will allow the question of the tax to go to the voters this November. There is simply not enough time to engage the community, to allow the citizens of the Sylvania City School District the time to gather their supporting evidence for either side of the arguments. This proposal was rushed and the Sylvania City School Board is now almost guaranteeing the citizens of our district to make an uninformed decision. Dr. Fineske even disclosed during the meeting, that there are only two (2) weeks left to meet the requirements of the Ohio Board of Elections deadline, approximately Aug 8, 2018. This disclosure alone, presents the perception that the Sylvania City School Board purposefully and willfully delayed the disclosure of this request, to the public, until the meeting held on July 23, 2018, to ensure an expeditious request with little disruption as possible.
It is irresponsible and negligent that the Sylvania City School Board failed to pursue the recently approved Federal School Security Grant through the School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP). The request to have the citizens of the Sylvania School District, to be financially responsible for the acquisition and installation of the requested new security equipment, without the attempt to apply for this grant, when we, the taxpayer, have already paid for it through our Federal taxes, is naïve. The SVPP will provide funding up to 75% of the incurred total cost to acquire the very same technology that was requested by Dr. Fineske, as long as the local community provides a local cash match of at least 25% toward the total cost of the approved award project during the award period. What complicates this request further, is not just the short notice deadline for the ballot initiative, but the looming July 30, 2018 deadline for the application of the SVPP grant.
The Federal taxpayer, all citizens of our Nation, to include the local citizens residing in the Sylvania City School District, has already supplied the necessary financial support for this initiative. The Sylvania City School Board’s lack of knowledge of the SVPP and naivety to request the taxpayers of the Sylvania City School District to pay twice, was shown by Dr. Fineske’s paraphrased statement, during the July 23 board meeting, “…grants only last for one year and then expire.” One of the disclosed purposes of the proposed levy is to provide the funding to acquire the equipment which is covered by the SVPP grant. The Sylvania City School Board’s proposed levy includes the financial request for initial acquisition of new security equipment, spread over five (5) years, with the requirement to be renewed at the five (5) year mark. The school board is asking the citizens of the Sylvania City School District to effectively pay for this measure for the rest of their lives, through a property tax, as long as the current citizens do not move and this proposed levy passes initially and passes renewal every five (5) years.
Furthermore, IF this measure does receive the certification to be on the 2018 November General election ballot and IF it passes, the citizens of the Sylvania School District will not only be funding the district’s local initiative, but funding the initiatives of other school districts, throughout our Nation, to those who applied and received the SVPP funds, funded by our Federal tax dollars. We, the Sylvania City School District tax payers, will effectively be paying twice the amount requested, if the Sylvania City School Board does not seek the funds available from the SVPP or any other available grant. Our local citizens, my fellow citizens, have already paid for this requested levy through our Federal taxes.
As reported by the Ohio Department of Taxation (2018), the current citizens of the Sylvania City School District, who are homeowners, are already subjected to a 49.48 millage tax rate through our property tax (p. 6). This method of school district funding was previously ruled unconstitutional per the Ohio Supreme Court, DeRolph v. State of Ohio, March 24, 1997, during the year of 2000, 2001 and 2002. To this day, our elected State officials still have not resolved the current funding measures affecting our State, but our Federal government has at least tried by providing the support through the SVPP and the other grants that are available.
In addition, the utilization of emotional persuasion, basing the necessity of this proposed levy on the “ability to feel safe at the schools,” and carefully selected word choices to “sell” this levy to the public has been used before, by this very school board. The actions of the Sylvania City School Board during the July 23, 2018 meeting substantiated how our elected officials embrace the politics of fear to gain the confidence of the voter and exploiting the voter’s desire to maintain safety and security of our school children.
Allowing the public to attend the Sylvania School Board meeting and allowing the public to comment, was and is a great opportunity. However, Julie Hoffman’s comment during the meeting, “the board does not generally engage the public during meetings,” reinforces the perception of secrecy and lack of transparency of the Sylvania City School Board. What is the Sylvania City School Board afraid of? Is it the fear of being held accountable for your actions? The actions of the Sylvania City School Board that meeting, exemplified the Board’s distrust of the citizens and citizens’ distrust of the Sylvania City School Board, whom all were elected to serve and to do a job, even if the work is hard.
Based off of this research, the proof of potential wasteful spending of our tax-dollars, the display of disrespect from Julie Hoffman, the delayed reveal of this proposal, lack of motivation to do the hard work, the Sylvania City School Board’s failure to maintain an affordable budget and the 22-year history of mismanaged tax payer dollars, that I have witnessed, I cannot support this request. I also advise all citizens of the Sylvania City School District to do the same.
To further explain, in regards to the Sylvania City School Board's failure to engage the public during meetings, the honorable member of the board, Shannon Szyperski, stated to me "...that the policy to not interact with members of the public during public participation is, in fact, a Board policy [Policy Manual, Sec 0000 Bylaws, Public Participation at Board Meetings, num. po0169.1, adopted Nov 15, 1993, last revised July 28, 2003]. Although I am new to the Board, I have been to several Board meetings over the past 10 years and it has been this way for as long as I can recall."
During my military career, I was able to gain experience from many different school districts throughout our Nation and none of them that I witnessed has such a silly rule pertaining to the engagement of the community. The fact that this board chooses to not interact with members of the community during a meeting, is embarrassing. The board’s rules need to change, which can easily be done by our elected members of the Sylvania City School Board. Using the argument that this is just how it is and how it has always been, has been heard before throughout our Nation’s history. It is nothing more than an excuse for the fear of change, the fear of adaptation.
For example, the very same argument was used by the opposition to fight against the federally protected rights of our Nation’s gay citizens, specifically pertaining to marriage. The same argument was used by the opposition to fight against equal rights of black Americans, even during the fight against equal rights of women. The continued practice to refuse to engage the public, during their meetings, needs to be discussed publicly to address the merits of the policy as it stands.
If this proposed levy requested was made public at least a month ago, there would have been enough time to pursue alternative funding measures, which we, the citizens of the Sylvania City School District, have now found out their existence and they are available, with a deadline, for the SVPP, of July 30, 2018. Now that we know, that the Sylvania City School Board is contemplating to ask the citizens of the school district to cover the expenses for the equipment twice, already paid for by our Federal income taxes and perhaps very soon, our local property taxes.
What further complicates this funding request is the inclusion of the Mental Health services, before the public learned that the Sylvania City School district had planned on reducing the current, contracted nurses responsible for all twelves schools in the district. The district's plan is to hire three of their own nurses to cover the twelve schools and use a telephone health system to supplement this change. According to current and former nurses, the district has already laid off all the nurses.
This recent event now makes my following proposal very difficult to gain public support. If this proposed levy was exclusively for the request of funding for the Mental Health services and additional School Officers, my proposed measure alone would provide immediate, tangible evidence that this optional choice provided what was originally requested and show the citizens of the Sylvania City School District that the Sylvania City School Board is faithful to fiscal responsibility of the taxpayer’s money.
Put this alternative choice to the citizens of the Sylvania City School District for a vote, then, before going back to the public to request funding for the equipment, the Sylvania City School Board must show its work (the same idea as when our children must show theirs when answering mathematical problems) that the research and lobbying of our State & Federal Government’s financial support is being pursued. This also would allow additional time for the board to consider all available funding options, gain the knowledge of the different available technology and allows all members, the board and the community alike, to make a truly well-informed decision.
With the looming deadline for the board of elections, remove the request for funding to acquire the new equipment and keep the Mental Health services and School Officers funding request intact, I think that type of request would have had greater opportunity to pass, but recent layoffs of the nurses complicates this alternative request.
Finally, the desire of the honorable member of the board, Mr. Jim Nusbaum, to allow the Sylvania City School District taxpayers the opportunity to have our voices heard cannot be met in a timely matter due the fact that Sylvania City School Board has failed to hold an additional meeting before the upcoming deadline of the SVPP. The next regularly scheduled meeting is not until August 13, 2018. This next meeting will be held fourteen (14) calendar days after the SVPP deadline and five (5) calendar days after the approximate deadline for the Board of Elections.
The citizens of the Sylvania City School District can only imagine the reasoning for releasing this proposal to the public on July 23, 2018, without scheduling a meeting to allow and promote engagement with the public, before either of the deadlines. This further solidifies the public's perception that this method of releasing this information to the public was by design. Conveying your request to the public as a very important and urgent need, in order to secure the "Safety and Security of our Children," common sense dictates to plan this type of engagement meeting beforehand. This is another example that only reinforces the perception of secrecy and lack of transparency, further exemplifying the Board’s distrust of the citizens and citizens’ distrust of the Sylvania City School Board. The current actions that this board is taking and displaying to the public is no longer a display of mismanagement but now a display of cronyism.
Therefore, I, Stephen E. Roshong, a resident of the Sylvania City School District, request your support and join me by signing my petition to the Sylvania City School Board, demanding, that:
WE, THE CITIZENS OF THE SYLVANIA CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, DO NOT SUPPORT THIS PROPOSED SYLVANIA CITY SCHOOL BOARD'S 2018 SAFETY & SECURITY LEVY AS WRITTEN. IT IS THE DESIRE OF WE, THE CITIZENS OF THE SYLVANIA SCHOOL DISTRICT, THAT THE SYLVANIA CITY SCHOOL BOARD CEASES ANY AND ALL ATTEMPT TO FILE THE RESOLUTION OF NECESSITY, ACCORDING TO OHIO BALLOT QUESTIONS AND ISSUES HANDBOOK, TO EARN THE CERTIFICATION BY THE TAXING AUTHORITY TO THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND COUNTY AUDITOR (2018, P. ‘2-9’).
DERIVED FROM THE FOLLOWING SOURCES:
1) Husted, J. (April 2018) Ohio ballot questions and issues handbook. A guide for Board of Elections, Taxing Authorities and Political Subdivision to Placing Questions and Issues on the Ballot. Retrieved from https://www.sos.state.oh.us/globalassets/elections/eoresources/general/questionsandissues.pdf
2) Longley, R. (2018, April 3) What are Rider Bills in Government? Rider Bills are Often Stealth Legislation. ThoughtCo. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/rider-bills-in-the-us-congress-stealth-legislation-4090449
3) Ohio Department of Taxation. (June 8, 2018) Real and Public Utility Tangible Personal Property Taxes, By School District: Taxable Values, Taxes Levied, Average Tax Rates for Current Expenses, and Average Values per Pupil, Tax Year 2017. Retrieved from https://www.tax.ohio.gov/Portals/0/tax_analysis/tax_data_series/school_district_data/sd1/SD1CY17.pdf
4) Parker, J. (July 16, 2018) How to apply for the new school security grants before the July 30 deadline. Security Industry Association. Retrieved from https://www.securityindustry.org/2018/07/16/how-to-apply-for-new-school-security-grants-before-the-july-30-deadline/
5) Provance, J. (2018, April 6). Taxes for school security can now fund student mental health treatment. The Blade. Retrieved from http://www.toledoblade.com/State/2018/04/06/Taxes-for-school-security-can-now-fund-student-mental-health-treatment.html
6) U.S. Department of Justice, COPS Community Oriented Policing Services. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://cops.usdoj.gov
7) U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. (2018, June) Fact Sheet: 2018 COPS Office STOP School Violence: School Violence Prevention Program. Retrieved from https://cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/2018AwardDocs/svpp/2018_SVPP_Pre-Award_FactSheet_NO-DATE_508.pdf
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