MOUNT VERNON — “Kids Count” is the theme for the series of town meetings being held by the Mount Vernon City School District to inform the community about the Nov. 2 operating levy.
Tuesday’s meeting kicked off with an a capella number performed by elementary pupils from Twin Oak and Pleasant Street elementary schools. “Everybody knows we grow up too fast,” they sang. “We are the future. We are the leaders of tomorrow,” the song continued. “A vote for the levy is a vote for you and me.”
Superintendent of Schools Steve Short then gave a PowerPoint presentation and subsequently answered questions submitted in writing by audience members.
He began his presentation by briefly explaining how school levies work, then went into detail about Mount Vernon’s five-year, $2.5 million emergency operating levy.
“It’s been 14 years since we passed a general fund levy asking for new money — 1996 was the last general fund money that was voted by the public,” he said. “What the public has done the past few years is renew emergency levies. Those are not for new money. This one is for new money.”
Using charts and graphs, Short said the district’s money situation is due more to a revenue stream problem than to an expenditure problem. He detailed the cost containment measures taken by the district, which have totaled $3 million over the last three years. Those cuts include, but are not limited to, the elimination of 10 teaching positions and one administrative position, increasing class sizes, eliminating summer enrichment programs, and eliminating extended day kindergarten.
Short then listed the anticipated revenue not received by the district, and reported the district has been told by the Ohio Department of Education to plan for a further double digit reduction in state funding, and the total revenue loss is close to $3 million.
Short said grant money, such as Race to the Top, the Physical Education Program grant and the just received Education Jobs fund money cannot be added to the general fund. It must be used for designated purposes.
The termination hearing for former middle school science teacher John Freshwater has cost the district approximately $800,000, spread out over two and a half years, Short said.
“Regardless of the hearing,” said Short, “we would be on the ballot, because of what has happened with our revenues.”
Passage of the levy will allow the district to maintain current programs with some additional cuts as needed.
“We’re trying to maintain the programs we have, knowing that [additional] cuts are going to have to be made. The board is very aware of the economy, very aware of the situation we are in in our homes, very aware of how it is,” said Short. “... We are asking for the bare minimum. What we do for our kids is very important. We’re not trying to hide behind kids. We’re not trying to hide behind our students. We’re trying to get out in front of our students. Our kids are important for our future.”
If the levy fails, Short said there will be deeper cuts to programs and more staffing cuts will need to be made. One of the audience members asked what those cuts will be.
“The board has not gotten to that yet,” Short responded. “I have to say that deeper cuts to programs and staff will have to happen. The biggest way to save costs is to cut the number of staff members. When you cut staff, you cut programs. When you cut programs, you cut opportunities for kids. When you cut staff, you make class sizes much larger. And that hurts the opportunities for kids to learn.”
The average daily cost of the levy to a homeowner in the district can be found on the treasure’s link on district’s website, mvcsd.us, Short said. He encouraged residents aged 65 or older to apply for the Homestead Exemption.
“Will teacher and administration salaries increase with the passing of the levy?” someone asked.
“We can’t do that,” Short said.
He answered other questions and encouraged those with further questions to attend one of the other town meetings which will be held as follows: Thursday, Pleasant Street Elementary School; Oct. 19, Wiggin Street Elementary; Oct. 21, Columbia Elementary; Oct. 26. East Elementary; and Oct. 28, Dan Emmett Elementary. All are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and should last about one hour.
Short can also be reached at email@example.com or 397-7422, ext. 6017.
Rita Ball was one of the individuals in the audience. She said the meeting was informative.
“I learned some things about school budgeting that I wasn’t aware of. There were a couple of numbers that concerned me a lot, in terms of loss of revenue at the state level. ... I would encourage others to come [to the meetings] and learn and make an intelligent decision on how to vote. I’m for children. We have to support our young people. We can’t just let things go away that are going to help them.”
Mount Vernon High School sophomore Patrick Schermerhorn thought the session could be more informative. He would have liked to have seen sources for the numbers mentioned in the presentation. “The information they had was somewhat helpful. [Short] said there will be more put into the presentation over the next few weeks and I like that idea. ... I would recommend that more students and parents come to these. Everyone in the area needs to know what’s going on, what they are voting on.”