"Value" isn’t a word you often hear in connection with schools, but in these troubled economic times it’s a word we hear more often. In a nutshell, taxpayers expect value for their investment in great schools, and they demand accountability.
I’ve served on the Mayfield school board 14 years, and believe me the challenges have never been greater. The state chopped $700 million from school aid this budget, and the toll to schools throughout Ohio has been enormous. Teacher layoffs have become routine in many districts, and only by taking severe action early have school boards managed to keep their heads above water. Mayfield has been no exception. Working closely with our administration, the Board of Education cut more than $2.5 million and negotiated a wage freeze with employees.
Compounding the crisis is the state’s decision to eliminate the Tangible Personal Property Tax (TPP) on industry. This decision targets communities like ours that have significant commercial tax bases.
As I meet with citizens throughout the district to discuss the situation I hear two or three themes constantly.
• Our citizens are truly proud of what has been achieved at Mayfield Schools – the Excellent With Distinction state report card ranking, the national press notices we have received, and the dedication and sacrifice of employees throughout the district.
• Those same citizens also believe that the schools provide a good value for the tax dollar. An independent poll of the community found that 76 percent of our residents agree that Mayfield schools give taxpayers their money’s worth. That’s a fantastic statistic.
• Finally, I am constantly reminded by residents that they expect we will continue Mayfield’s conservative approach to school budgeting. They are proud that the district’s building improvement plan is on time and on budget, and they appreciate the fact there are no frills in the program.
Residents know that their Board of Education will not come to them seeking a levy without first exhausting every possible cost-cutting measure. I can honestly say that at no time during my 14 years on the board have I witnessed a stronger commitment to stretching the taxpayer’s dollar.
That commitment enabled us to extend the time between levies from three years to four – a remarkable achievement.
Please keep all this in mind and ask yourself these questions when you vote on Tuesday March 6.
• Have our schools done an excellent job of educating our community’s children? Yes, without a doubt.
• Have our schools been careful stewards of tax dollars? Yes, and that’s proven by the tight budgeting and going an additional year without a levy.
• Above all, have the schools earned our trust and do they offer good value? Absolutely. And please remember, this crisis is not of our doing. As most people agree, Ohio’s system of funding education is not only inadequate – it’s unconstitutional! Yet the legislature continues to ignore the Supreme Court’s order to reform the system, creating a system where if a community wants to maintain quality schools it has to do so by itself.
No one likes to pay more for services, of course. But the question we need to ask as a community is whether the schools spend their resources wisely and whether excellence in the classroom protects our property values and our standing as a great place to live. I think you’ll agree the answer to those questions is "Yes." That’s why I urge you to vote FOR Issue 11 on March 6.