Approximately 85 community residents turned out for a public meeting concerning the proposed 7.99-mill property levy that will be on the November ballot in an attempt to build a new school in Botkins.
While most attending seemed to support the proposed levy, many residents posed questions following a short presentation delivered by Botkins Local Schools Board of Education President Jack Buschur at the meeting.
The school district recently chose to participate in the state’s Ohio School Facilities Commission program, which helps districts build new schools in a program started by former Gov. Bob Taft.
Schools are awarded funding based on an equity formula based on needs of the district and overall real estate wealth in the district among other factors. The district qualified at a 75-25 ratio and the board is asking voters to approve the levy which will raise approximately $7 million over 23 years. The state will pick up the remaining $17.5 million of the tab.
Buschur pointed out that it was the most fiscally responsible move for the board to do.
“I think I can speak for all the board members when I say that none of us went into this expecting to build a new school,” Buschur said. “After going over this, we have found that we can build a new building for as much as it will take to renovate the building.
If a new school is turned down, the school faces several expensive renovations during the next several years, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning work, roof repairs, fire alarm and electrical work to name a few. An independent company conducted a review of the school system and found that renovations would cost more than building a new building.
Buschur also addressed rumors that open enrollment children were getting a “free ride” and would not be helping in paying for the school. Misconceptions over enrollment students have included that open enrollment students increase the cost of running the district while not paying as much as school district residents.
Buschur countered this by showing the school district’s revenue for open enrollment, which makes up more than one-third of the district’s total enrollment. The district receives more than $1 million from open enrollment students and experiences no increase in expenditures. Money that normally goes to open enrollment student’s districts comes to Botkins when they open enroll, he explained.
The main concerns came from a group of residents living in a small 10-lot trailer park. School board members are in negotiations with the owner of the property, who currently has the land up for sale. The school wants to buy the property for an access point when the school is built.
Residents of the trailer park argued that families will be uprooted from their homes. They asked if other sites had been considered.
“This ground is what made the most sense to us,” Buschur said. “The property is for sale by the owner. We are trying to do what makes the most sense.”
Buschur said that the new building would be more efficient to run and maintain. He also said that ballot language is simple.
“A lot of times it is hard to understand and you are voting yes when you vote no or the other way around,” Buschur said. “This is straight forward. “A yes vote is a vote to build the new school and a no vote is against it.”