Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Election Math

I was just reviewing the numbers from the March levy vote, which can be found here on the website of the Franklin County Board of Elections.

There were a total of 26,810 valid votes cast on the levy, and the outcome was 11,593 For (43%) and 15,217 Against (57%). The difference is 3,624 votes, but that's not how much the levy lost by. With 26,810 votes cast, it would have required only half plus one, or 13,406 votes to pass the levy. In other words, if only 1,813 people had vote For instead of Against, the levy would have passed.

The Nov election is almost surely going to have greater turnout. I think it will be similar to Nov 2004, when it was around 80% in Hilliard. I don't know the current count of registered voters in our school district, but let's say it's around 42,000 – about what it was in Nov 2007. If there is 80% turnout, it means 33,600 votes will be cast.

For the levy to pass, it will require 16,801 votes in favor of the levy.

Let's assume every voter who voted in the March 08 election will vote again this Nov, and will vote exactly the same as they did in March.

That would mean that for the levy to pass, it will require all of the 11,593 votes For from the March election, plus 5,208 new votes For the levy.

For the levy to be defeated again, all it would take is the 15,217 Against votes from the March election, plus 1,584 new voters to vote Against.

In other words, on a marginal basis the votes have to be 3-to-1 in favor of the levy in order for it to pass, if no one changes their vote from March.

Pretty tall order.

The School Board and the Administration has taken an interesting stance, saying essentially: If you pass this 6.9 mill levy, we will still have to make $3 million in cuts, but aren't going to put any effort into identifying what those cuts might be. But if the levy is defeated, we know exactly what $11 million will be cut.

Folks, I'm not even sure that $3 million is the right number – it matches an extremely rough estimate I made and used in my address to the Board at their August 11 meeting. This number could easily be off by a $million or more either way. I'm not so sure the Treasurer did his own math and came up with the same number I suggested, or whether they're just using my guesstimate.

If $3 million is the right number, why wouldn't the Superintendent go to the list of $11 million in cuts already identified, and show which ones would have to be cut to achieve $3 million in budget reductions?

It looks to me like you could say that the Administrative Staff, Classified Staff and Transportation reductions would be carried out even if the levy does pass. Those add up to $2.6 million, so a little more would be needed, but nearly all teaching positions and programming could be maintained (there are many more permutations of course).

Or the employees could all agree to a 3% rollback of their salaries, and no one has to lose their job and no programming would have to be cut. I don't see what other action has a prayer of getting this levy passed frankly. And we do need it to pass to buy time to get the finances of this District straightened out.

Assuming that we all agree that the teachers, staff and administrators deserve a raise at some point, and that we can assume there will be no bailout from the State of Ohio in the next couple of years, it's a foregone conclusion that we're going to need to pass another levy sometime.

I'm proposing that if we pass this one now, and then all work hard to get things squared away, we should be able to make the interval to the next levy longer than we've seen in the past - maybe by a couple of years.

But if the levy is defeated, our school leadership - which includes the School Board, the Administration and the union leaders - are going to immediately start hacking away at a district we've spent years building. Once those teachers, staff members and administrators are laid off, we'll have little chance of ever getting them back even if we do pass a levy in 2009.

Don't put all the blame on the school leaders either. We've all been asleep at the switch for years, pretty much ignoring the fiscal operations of our District. Finally, we're seeing a spark of public engagement, and I think we have a real chance to get things back under control.

But we can't blow it up before we get there.


  1. Since about 90%+ of the time the first HSD levy request is rejected, it would be interesting to look back at past failed levy results and calculate the average margin of defeat. If this latest defeat was significantly worse than others, then it's likely it'll have a bigger problem passing this time.

    Is a big voter turn-out good or bad for the schools? Interesting question. Probably on balance it's good.

    It's good in the sense that the percentage of senior citizens in the vote will be diluted. They, who famously vote in every election, would presumably be more likely to vote down a levy request since they live on fixed incomes and have no kids in school.

    It's also good for the levy in that you might also draw a lot of 18-24 crowd (especially this time with Obama on the ballot) and since they are likely renting, they probably would vote for the levy since it doesn't cost them anything.

    On the other hand, those who work in the schools or are affiliated with someone who does, and would be likely to vote for the levy, would have less impact on vote if there's a big turnout.

  2. Tom:

    Reasonable thoughts. You're probably right on the renter's frame of mind, even though it's ultimately wrong. If the levy passes, the property owner will get dinged just like everyone else, and will surely pass it on to the renters (if the market will bear it).


  3. In response to tom...
    It is very unfortunate that those who are pro-levy and seem to have the money for the schools whenever asked care so little for those of us who live on a fixed income. You hope for a voter turnout that "dilutes" our vote? Perhaps you'd like to "dilute" us even more by causing us to have to move away from this community because we can no longer afford the taxes. Why would you vote to increase the tax burden of your neighbors in this economy when they cannot afford it? Don't forget that the majority of taxpayers in the district do not have children in school, fixed income or not.

    I will vote no because I will not vote for a tax increase on my family that we cannot afford, not because I care or don't care about the children. Perhaps in the future, I would vote yes on a levy, if the economy and our personal situation improves, and if changes are made that rein in the uncontrolled cost increases of this district. I will vote no because I think if a levy passes in November, it will be business as usual for 2 years and then we will be hit with a request for 12-13 mils. I'd rather the bullet be bitten now and changes be made going forward instead of waiting for board elections and the next levy request. As I've said before, passing a levy just kicks the can down the road, there are no guarantees that anything will change going forward.

  4. GS, I do think that many do understand the financial burden on seniors, fixed income, layed off
    etc. I will leave the jury out
    on how the district, levy campaign
    HEA goes as I do not want to speak for them.

    I would urge you to pay close attention to the race for state representative in your district. Show up if at all possible and ask the candidates of both parties what they are going to do about this
    school funding mess. They are great for talking tax cuts but not about the tax shifts that occur tothe local homeowner.

    I believe we need to make a continued investment in our schools as a community. At the same time there needs to be adjustments in our rate of spending and that includes upcoming contracts.

    At the next board meeting ...if nothing comes up at the last minute
    ... I will be calling for some specific action on state funding
    planning from the state, an exploration of future changes in our growth in spending, and elimination of actions in the school buildings.

    All of these things I will speak to
    should have allready been addressed but I feel it is time to cut the crap and move forward.

  5. Paul:

    Two comments.

    First, the renters of today are the property owners of tomorrow, so they probably care about both taxes and services provided by the school district.

    Second and more importantly, your theme seems to be that voters should approve the levy to avoid the cuts and then work on a permanent solution. It's not a bad idea, but if you really want to have impact, and if your board/administration are ameniable, a guarantee in writing that the school district will follow through may seal the deal. Columbus City Schools, for example, made 2 promises in 2004, the first that they would cap expenses at 3% per year and the second that the levy would last for 4 years. In Worthington, we made a commitment with our last bond issue detailing how the money would be spent:


    There are many reasons why such promises may not be appropriate in Hilliard's situation, but if you don't ask.

  6. gs,

    Kicking the can down the road extends the quality education our district provides for all students in our district. Putting your foot down now will eliminate opportunities for students NOW. As Paul stated, passing the levy, then being prudent in our attempts for reform, would provide the best of both worlds.

    Not disagreeing, but somewhat confused by your contention that your family cannot afford it, but THEN stating you are voting no because you can foresee what the district plans to do in the future.

    I will vote yes because, although I have no children in the district, I feel it my fiscal responsibility to provide them the best quality education we can. We can "punish" the powers that be at a later point, but punishing students through a no vote is not something I want on my hands.

    Now if your family really can't afford it, that is another question altogether, though it does not diminish the negative impact the result will have on the 15,000 students that call HCSD home.

  7. musicman - if we are to follow your logic, and the Board would determine that we need a 15 mill levy to support all of the bells and whistles (this could easily happen down the road given the history of spending), you would vote yes? At what point do the taxpayers say enough is enough, you have to learn to do more with less, or do less period? At what point do we trust the Board to start acting in a fiscally sound manner? My dad taught me to always tell the truth, because if you lie to me one time, it will take a long time to earn my trust back. I'm afraid many of us feel that the Board has not been truthful with us, and that they have been free and loose with the money; this leads to the lack of trust that is prevalent in the District today.
    And to gs - many of us empathize with the fixed income scenario. While many of us may be still working, my income, anyway, has been "fixed" for the last several years. And while I can't really speak for tom, his use of the word dilute came across to me as only a technical term. I might have used the word "offset" instead.

  8. Hillirdite:

    What I'm saying - and I think musicman is agreeing - should not be generalized - we're saying that our community needs to pass this particular levy to give us a chance to fix things without blowing it up.

    I think that any person who has firm grasp on school economics (funding and spending), and who knows unquestioningly that there is sufficient waste in our district such that all current programming and services can be maintained without an additional levy, should vote NO on the levy, and I will accept that as an informed vote.

    But most people vote NO on the levy (and YES for that matter) simply on emotion. They feel that there is waste, or they're angry about being asked to pay more in this tough economy.

    I recognize that for some, the extra few hundred dollars is material, and will cause an uncomfortable level of sacrifice. I'm thinking primarily of our seniors, but it includes more of course. Our Board has a tool at its disposal for dealing with this - an earned-income only income tax. I don't think it has been seriously discussed as an option for our community.

    And it's not the option on the table before us right now. It's really this simple:

    A vote AGAINST the levy is a vote FOR the cuts the Board has outlined.

  9. A vote AGAINST the levy is a vote FOR the cuts the Board has outlined.

    Paul, I get what you are saying but you can color the word "extortion" any way you like - that IS too strong of a word but I don't have my thesaurus handy. As I have posted before, I am leaning more and more towards a yes vote, although I have not made up my mind. I still have little faith that anything is going to change between now and 2 years when they will come back asking for more. Actually, what will change is that my youngest will have graduated and I can move to a district that has not bankrupted the system. Not that I am sure such a place exists, at least not for long, but I know it will be one of the primary factors in my choice. I am tied to central Ohio (as a business owner) for probably another 15 years but not to Hilliard. Can you tell I am extremely frustrated?

  10. Musicman, some how besides the electorate the HEA and the adm have a role in this dilemna that they seem to be getting a free pass on.

  11. Hillirdite:

    I understand your frustration.

    If you intention is to bail out in two years, then I think a pretty good argument could be made that the $thousand extra you might pay for the levy over 2-3 years will have positive ROI in terms of your selling price.

    I think you could also make the case that the best scenario for you is to have this levy pass, then sell before the next one comes up.


  12. Feelings and emotion, when they overwhelm fact and rationality, are very dangerous things.

    What many of us THINK we know about the workings of the HCSD is far different than the truth. Nobody talks about all the tax money from districts like Hilliard that is taken from the district and given to other districts. The problem does not solely sit on the lap of the HCSD, unfortunately, that is the only place where people can pack a punch with their vote.

    Our system=Broken

    Voting NO =/= Fixing the System

    Voting NO = Shooting ourselves in the foot.

  13. Musicman:

    Well and succinctly said.

    We can observe some key things from the outside:

    a) When residential development is allowed to outpace commercial development, a greater fraction of the funding burden transfers to homeowners. This is a municipal government problem, not something the school district can control (although they can certainly raise a stink about it!);

    b) The State of Ohio has a revenue problem, caused mostly by the collapse of heavy industry in Ohio. The resources they have left are being increasingly diverted from the most affluent parts of the state - the suburbs - to the urban and rural regions. The suburbs don't have enough representation in the General Assy to do much about it. In other words, we can't expect the State to ride to our rescue;

    c) Our labor costs have risen much faster than the growth in students, partly because of many new roles have been added (e.g. intervention teachers and tutors), but also significantly because of the structure of the union labor agreements.

    None of those things get fixed by voting down the levy. If the intention is to punish the leadership, then note that none of the cuts proposed by the Superintendent and approved by the Board will directly affect any of them. The teachers and staff members that would lose their jobs are the youngest and lowest paid of them - not the decision makers.

    Meanwhile, the kids in school have a diminished experience in ways we don't fully understand, we put a couple thousand more high schoolers on the road every day, adding to their risk and ours, and our housing values further decline as prospective buyers cease viewing Hilliard as a desirable district in which to live.


  14. ... by the way: the only wreck I've had in 40 years of driving is when a high schooler made a left turn into me at the corner of Davidson and Avery.


  15. ... and that was before cell phones...


  16. Musicman, you make a good point on the state funding, however the district, local leaders, HEA have supported current state office holders with campaign contributions.

    I think that your point on emotions are well taken. Some are just against the additional taxes
    and grab onto anything to support there reasonsing to say no more taxes.

    But on the other hand there are many who are under financial challenges and this levy and the next one which I predict will be
    at least in the 11 mill range is really going to hurt them.

    While I dont agree with those who will vote no because they dont
    have all the facts, I am also increasingly frustrated by the pro levy folks who tell people they are selfish and dont get it if they vote no. They do not know the economic circumstances of every voter.

    It is extremely interesting that
    NO one wants to talk about the effect of the contract just completed, and NO ONE wants to acknowledge that actions in the buildings toward students and parents are totally unacceptable

    This levy can pass if we put a limit on spending increases across the board IE 4 % to 5% for the next 5 years and acknowledge we have to make adjustments on the next contract. Why is that so tough for our leadership to stand up and be counted. One might think they are afraid of the HEA.
    The HEA wields a powerful retribution hammer in our buildings and our district.

    The next thing many people would like to see is the board admin and
    employee unions come out and state they will cease disruptive job actions toward parents and students in future contracts. That is a simple communication piece
    I doubt that will happen. I think another poster here also brought this up. So much for the its for the kids attitude, because obvioulsy the parents and students were NOT the priority during the negotiations

    The levy will pass I believe, but ifthe status quo wins out and there are no changes to spending, then I fully expect an organized effort
    to purposely turn down the next one
    especially when the levy amount is going to be huge.

    The district and its employees have to face up that we dont have an endless pocketbook, and I dont think the district and its minions really care about how it affects the individual homeowner

  17. I am somewhat offended by anyones thoughts that I have let emotions take over for me. What I perceive as reality may be different than your perception, but I have my reasons just as you have yours. Maybe "extortion" was NOT too strong of a word. I have been burned already by what I thought was a good choice for the Board, when she flip-flopped on the 3rd high school immediately upon taking office. I have seen the Board dodge
    the actual raise amounts for the teachers. I have seen Dale Mcvey threaten to close the buildings for after hour uses. I have attended the Community Forum and school board meetings. My wife works in the central kitchen at Memorial (employed by Aramark) and sees waste in the schools every day. So please don't lump me in with those who just bitch constantly because they just don't want to pay. I co-own a business that has gone through very tough economic times for the last four years, and I have hands-on experience in watching where every penny is spent, as well as experience in making sure when times were good, we saved for the bad times so we could get through times such as now. My lack of faith that things in the HCSD will be different after passing this levy is, in my mind, entirely justified.

    And Paul, as far as suggesting my best course is to vote for the levy and then sell, you don't know what my actual cost is if it does, or what my ability to pay it is. And if taxes keep spiraling out of control, that is going to affect my property value too. Ever price a house in the Clintonville area? Columbus City schools and yet houses go for big money - so much for that particular cause and effect.

  18. Hillirdite:

    Hilliard and Clintonville attract folks looking for different reasons. I would personally enjoy living in some places in Clintonville, and when we sell our place to downsize, it will certainly be a place we consider. But I don't have any kids in school any more, and I wouldn't move there if I did.

    I don't know this as a fact, but my guess is that people move to Hilliard primarily to raise a family. The fact that we get 0.8 to 1.0 school age kids per new home built is some evidence to support that.

    If the schools go to crap, or are perceived to be headed that way, so will go the demand for housing.

    As a homeowner, you spend money on many things to preserve the value of your home. You mow the grass, paint the exterior, do some landscaping, etc. Some of that is to enhance your own enjoyment of your house, and some is to preserve its value when the time comes to sell. Some things you can put off - others have to be addressed on demand.

    All I'm suggesting is that there is a similar kind of value in this investment. It will help maintain an important feature of your property - that it's in the highly regarded Hilliard School District.

    We can't fix what's wrong about the fiscal management of this district in the next 60 days, nor do I think it is a wise move to let it blow up in the manner that will happen with the specified cuts.

    By the way, there was little in the way of public opposition to that list of cuts, and the only thing that changed between McVey's proposal and the final list was the thing about building usage, which I challenged.

    So if that's how much this community is going to care one way or the other after this levy vote - then the hell with it. Vote down the levy and blow the district up now instead of delaying the inevitable.

    But if we want to fight to preserve our high quality school district, we need to pump a little more money into it to buy the time to fix things.

    The hope is that the money AND time we invest over the next couple of years will get things on the new track - great education value with less spending.

    At least that why I'm doing this.

  19. Paul, I too looked into Clintonville
    (my business is located there) both before my first house in Cross Creek
    18 years ago and then again 10 years ago when I moved in to the City of Hilliard. I too chose against it due to the school situation and the budget crunch that putting my kids into parochial or other private schools would cause. And I will also admit to not paying attention to the potential of problems in the HCSD back then, although that stopped when the debate for the 3rd high school started and I told everyone who would listen that
    the cost of actually opening that school was going to lead us exactly to where we are now.
    Terms such as "blowing the district up" serve no useful purpose either, in my opinion. I have a very deep appreciation for this blog, and your other efforts in enlightening
    those who will listen. I also appreciate the insight I have gained from the people who post. But as we get closer to the election, the rhetoric is getting
    pretty strong. Maybe this is intentional, as I know your position well from being around here a long time - change from within. I have stated several times that I am leaning more and more to a yes vote, even though it goes against my grain of "put up or shut up" when it comes to the Board. But regardless, I will continue to tell everyone I know that things in the HCSD are a mess and people had better start paying attention before their wallets are empty. Trouble is, as you point out, we are the vocal minority being dragged down by a silent majority. And we are being totally ignored by the decision makers, who when the levy passes, will breathe a sigh of relief, thank the voters, and make no promises to become better stewards of OUR money. And the special interests will make sure they get re-elected, just as always.

  20. And so a key goal for the Nov 09 election has to be to fill the three seats that come up for election with folks who have the drive, demeanor, and skills to do something about our situation.

    While I ran (unsuccessfully) for the Board in 2007, and am currently planning on doing so (successfully) in Nov 2009, my decision will be influenced by three things: a) how screwed up the district is by then (ie if the levy doesn't pass); b) what I sense to be the public's appetite for getting down and dirty to fix things; and, c) if I can team up with two other like-minded candidates, to ensure that we have a majority that can actually get something done. I have no desire to be a frustrated 1-4 minority like Jennifer Smith in Olentangy.


  21. And Paul, therein lies the problem. You already know you have much support around here but good luck finding two more like-minded and qualified candidates, and then good luck in fighting the power brokers
    who back those who will cave to their special interests. I'm pretty sure you will not get the backing of the HEA! And I had the same thought re: Ms. Smith. That is why I find it so hard to justify a yes vote and expecting things to change. Instead I must justify the yes vote with the same old "it's about the kids" when I know damn well it is not. At least not in the big picture. I hope you run, and I hope you find those like minded two others, whether I stick it out or not.

  22. Paul,
    I sincerely hope that you run in 2009, but I agree with you that it would be pointless to end up like Jennifer Smith. (Feel free to remove the next question(s) if you don't want to answer) Since Dave L. & Doug M. are not up for re-election, how receptive do you believe they are to implementing changes in the current structure? Could it be that one or the other is a closet Jennifer Smith who just remains quiet, rather than end up in her situation?

    I have to admit, I just read the Dispatch summary of the 4 candidates in 2007 and their priorities. I know it's difficult to put an entire platform down into a sentence, but I noticed that Lundregan said he hoped to make sure "revenue keeps up with expenditures" and Maggied listed school funding meeting federal education goals as the district's top priorities. I think if I were running, instead of focusing on getting more revenues and funding, I'd probably follow Jennifer Smith's lead to prioritize making tax dollars go further without affecting the quality of eduction the kids receive.

    Now, as to the levy cuts and the dollar amounts and your questioning, if I understood your post, which part of the $11 million in cuts represent the $3 milion - I think the $3 million will need to be cut either way...1 mill = $2.4 million, according to the 2007-2008 Budget. If the levy doesn't pass, there will need to be $16.6 million in cuts, assuming the full amount of the levy goes to fund the next operating year. Assume 15% ($2.5 million) is/was to have been saved for increased costs over the next 2 years, and that the district can absorb the $3 million in ways that won't be noticable to the kids or parents, then remaining $11 million will be used to preserve the cuts that were proposed...

    The $3 million in cuts will be necessary whether the levy passes or not - it combined with the $4.5 million already cut = 3.13 mill, almost the difference between the 2 proposed levy amounts?

    Aren't those about the same numbers you used in your Aug. 11 proposal to the board? I'm with you when it comes to not being sure how accurate the figure is, but again, it sure is a shame the public has to sit around guessing where the administration pulls their numbers from...

  23. KK:

    Dave probably, Doug maybe but I wouldn't count on it. You'd want to have 3 solid votes - more would be gravy. It's not good to have things go 3-2 all the time either. In fact, as I learned from my friend Joe Martin when he led the land use planning effort out here in Brown Cty, the preference is to discuss, debate and compromise to a unanimous vote. I don't have a problem that our Board votes 5-0 all the time; I just don't believe you can always get to a 5-0 vote unless you have a lot of discussion. Our Board has none - at least not in public. They declare their positions, but they don't really discuss anything. So they're either illegally having these discussions off-line, or they're just rubberstamping everything the Superintendent and President put before them. Neither is acceptable.

    Yes, I used $3 million when I last addressed the Board on 8/11 to propose the salary rollback idea. All I did was a proportioning calculation: if 9.5 mills means no cuts and 0 mills means $11 million, then how much in cuts would have at 6.9 mills. That's all the science I put into it. I bounced that number off two other school officials, and both said it was in the ballpark of what they had estimated as well. I don't know what methods they used, but it's a good thing when three people independently come to the same conclusion.

    Note that neither of these officials was the Superintendent, Treasurer or the Board President. My read is that they hadn't really thought in detail about what would need to be cut even if the levy passes, or had even done this simple calculation.

    I think that's because they had a different variable in mind: the interval to the next levy. If you listened to what they actually said in the comments relative to the 6.9 mill levy approval, it was all about shortening the interval to 2 years if not less.

    That's why I always harp to them that their decision is really a set of three numbers: 1) this levy millage; 2) interval to the next levy; and, 3) next levy millage. Unless they tell us how one proposal is different from another in terms of these three parameters, we don't know the whole story.

    Sadly, I believe it's because this particular Board doesn't think much about anything other than getting the immediate levy passed.


    ps - by the way, I can't edit comments. I can either post them or not, but that's it.

  24. Marc: I just realized that I replied to the email notice I get of a comment posting rather than in the blog. Here it is again:

    Thanks for the note.

    Yes, I am advocating that we pass the levy in Nov, but only to buy us time to develop a new mode of fiscal operations. I think it would be tough to make any commitment to the public right now, because we haven't yet done the due diligence.

    It's one thing to make a commitment as to how you're going to spend capital dollars, and whole different ballgame when you're talking about operational expenses, which substantially means compensation & benefits. Any commitment on operations expenses would need the buy-in of the unions, which isn't real likely in Hilliard right now.

    But I agree wholeheartedly with the principle. In my leadership coaching role, I teach that trust is the most important quality of a leader, and that you gain trust by making laps around the "Trust Circle." There are three steps: a) say what you're going to do; b) do it; and, c) report back (closure). Doesn't matter whether you're talking about your kids, your spouse, your boss, or the community serviced by your organization, the more laps you make, the more others trust you.

    note: Marc Schare is a member of the Board of Education of Worthington City Schools. I appreciate his joining in our discussions!

  25. Paul.... please kill my first version of this.

    Couple of thoughts...

    1) I do agree with Paul that we should support this levy so we can fix the district rather than blow it up. But that also means we assume it will be fixed. The big fear of most folks is that we support the levy and then nothing gets fixed and the district comes with hat in hand again in a few years for even more money.

    Well, the district WILL come to us in a few years for more money. Bank on it, can't be helped. The questions are HOW much, HOW soon, and HOW justified? If the "right" moves (insert your own thoughts here) are made and it's clear that the district is doing all they can do, and they district is open and HONEST (don't get me started), then to Paul's point, we will have an educated and involved community that would support additional, yet lower, taxes in the future. If not, then there is NO way another levy passes in this district. And I would be the first to vote no on an additional levy to maintain status quo.

    I realize some are already of the mindset that "enough is enough"; possibly for good reason. However, we CAN'T fix it if it's blown up by this levy failure. "Patch it" and fix it when we get the tools. That is to say, pass the levy, and then hold every member of the district (Admin, Board, OAPSE, and HEA) accountable. Vote the right team onto the board and make positive strides forward. If that doesn't work, then I will put my own blog up entitled "Blow up Hilliard Schools".

    2) I really wish I could run for school board. I think I could contribute. But I'd never get the HEA vote (and that's bad since I have ties to the HEA) and I'm pretty sure my family would be very uncomfortable with it. While I agree it will be good to have like-minded individuals on the board, I think it’s dangerous to have a “partisan” majority. Balance still needs to be maintained and no group (good or bad) should have complete veto power. I realize that is not what Paul is suggesting, but if I did run I could not, in good conscience, say that I would vote in step with the other 2 candidates in the pack. However, I would certainly share a vision and it would be one of earning back the public trust, bringing integrity back to the administration, and reducing the rate of expenditure expansion.

    I remember something I read about John Kennedy (yes, I wasn’t alive when he was president ;-))…. He said that when he got to Washington he was surprised to learn it was as messed up as he had been claiming it to be during his campaign. I find that funny yet accurate. We don’t really “know” what we know. We THINK we know, but we lack the facts. Primarily because we aren’t intimately involved in the thought process and partly because we have no access to the real operations of the school district. Board transparency is non-existent and the facts to which we do have access are often “tainted” with jargon or spin. So we really don’t know how good or bad things are in the district, nor do we really know how good or bad this admin/board is performing. It’s not great and it can be better, but my point is that until we get there, we don’t really have all the data to say what we can or can not change. All we can do is share a mission to change what we can, influence what we can, and be upfront about all of it to the public. Make sense?

  26. KJ some excellent points. We will be back on the ballot in two years possibly another 3 years after that.
    I would expect at least at $600 to possibly $1,000 in new taxes on a
    $100,000 home at our current spending rate.

    With the election about two months away we have zero new proposals to assist districts like ours from any of the state rep candidates or from our State Senator who is too buy running forcongress. So I would not expect any help there. And... the status quo has supported these same candidates over and over, and unfortunatly so have most of the local voters.

    So the rate of spending increases will depend on future contracts.
    Will we have the same terms as in the last 3 contracts including this one.? We can cut bussing, middle school sports, art and music, gifted programs, but this amount of
    11 million will end up being about
    5% of the total budget.

    The big question...... yet unanswered... is the contract bigger than the district or are the kids more important. There has to be some adjustments. 7% is not going to cut it year after year.
    And respect in the school buildings
    toward students and parents also
    has to improve.

    New faces on the board will help only if they are willing to make
    adjustments that include everything being on the table

  27. Paul,

    I'm not trying to sound condescending, but ...

    Your support of the levy in the face of the current economy and your concerns with your district's budget simply make you a "useful idiot" of the administration.

    Do you really think that a new levy will convince your district to address the hard issues? Not a chance. A levy is seen as a mandate to spend. Your board and administration will say that "Our community just voted its support for our CURRENT operations. We cannot make changes to what our community supports."

    A passage means that you will have lost your voice for years to come. "Why listen to Paul when our community wants to spend?" Yes, why indeed?

  28. I take my chances at being an idiot, and losing my voice in the community. I'd rather work in a mode of reason, debate and civility than emotion and name-calling.

    Perhaps the truth is that all of us in our community(except the developers and the politicians) have been foolish for letting things get so out of whack. I feel this next levy is our penalty for that inattention.

    Our choice is to go cold turkey by defeating the levy and letting the Board immediately start making all those cuts they've already identified, or commit to using the next two years to get things changed in a more reasonable manner. There is a growing collection of citizens here who are showing interest in banding together in a formal effort to advise and motivate the Board to accomplish just that.

    We have a majority of Board seats up for election in Nov 09. It may well be a changing of the guard.


  29. At last nights board meeting those who were there were treated to a nice overview of a recent music trip by a group of our middle schoolers

    Also the campaign committee gave a very good overview of their planning to move the levy forward.

    Very nice job all around

    I took the opportunity to try and point out that in 8 weeks we will also be faced with choices for our state representative. I noted to date that we had heard zero about any of those candidates plans to
    fix the education funding. I also noted that the state funding issue was a key part of our current challenge that everyone has been quick to point out.

    I asked the board or a related committee to explore the chance we could get to invite these candidates for state rep, et all
    to tell us exactly what their plans are ?

    I also called for everyone including the district and its employees to insure they know how someone really stands on helping us out, before they support them and
    especially campaign contributions.

    The response was lukewarm to say the least.

    There is a morning coffee Klatch
    at NEW Grounds coffee house at
    9:30 am this Friday. Also there are some addtional dates coming. This is similar to the Sat. community breakfast discussion that happenend in the spring. If anyone can make that or any other meetings it would be another opportunity to talk our board.

    Call me somewhat disheartenend or slightly pessamistic, but I am beginning to agree with some who have posted here, that in fact
    I am not sure the culture of business as usual will or can be changed as the status quo will rally round to preserve the
    current spending patterns.

    We heard again last night that
    "the community does not get it"
    I was hoping we were going to avoid that divisive tactic to get people to say yes.

    My concern is not so much for the
    incremetal dollars we as individuals need to come up with to
    pay for a successful levy passage this November, but the huge increase we will see in 2 to 3 years that is really going to hurt taxpayers in the pocketbook.

    I dont see changes in any future contracts coming given current attitudes and a lack of response to questions so far that new contracts
    have to be adjusted to lower spending in the future.

    It is my goal to continue to speak up about tough decisions that have to be made. I just hope it doesnt have a retribution affect like in the past.

  30. Rick, can you expound on the "retribution effect"? Not sure I am following that.

  31. Hillirdite, unfortunatly questions
    posed can have a negative effect on family in the school.

    As long as questions are posed in a
    professional manner, they should be accepted as if nothing else as differences in opinion.

    Bottom line "stuff" happens and it
    is tolerated by the district.
    Then we wonder why people dont get
    more active and participate.

    I am hoping this will change at some point in the future.

    In the meantime, we move forward
    and stay focused on important issues.

  32. Rick:

    On the issue of what the candidates for statewide office will do to "fix" school funding, I'll offer two thoughts.

    First, the Franklin County Consortium for Good Government offers candidates nights all over the county starting this month. The schedule is here:


    If past is prologue, the school funding question will be explored in detail with each candidate.

    Second, you should be careful what you ask for. Governor Strickland will likely overhaul the funding formula next year. Districts that are on the transitional aid guarantee are likely to lose funding with those dollars going to other districts and in any case, I don't think the state is likely to increase funding to rich suburban districts. In other words, in my opinion, the best that Hilliard can hope for is that the state leaves you alone, and that's probably not going to happen. There is a real chance that Worthington, Hilliard, Dublin etc.. lose part of their state foundation money next year. Time will tell.

  33. I worry about that retribution thing since I have had several letters published in the local weeklies; funny thing was my kid's teachers were mostly positive in their reactions. I did notice a rather interesting look on Dale McVeys' face when I introduced myself at the Community Forum - gathered he may have remembered the name. Regardless, I keep it respectful and civil and if I see anything that I think smacks of revenge, I'll be in the school office in a heartbeat. I would hope that our staff is more responsible than to go down that road.

  34. Marc:

    I recently spoke to one of the members of the State Board of Education, and was told that they went into the budgeting process being told they only had 95% of the prior year's funding as a starting point. If they spread that equally across the Board, then all of us would be getting 5% less.

    I think the more likely scenario is that the 'affluent' suburban districts will get even less than 95% to keep the funding as whole as possible at the urban and rural districts.

    The State BOE doesn't have the final say of course. Both the Governor and the General Assy get a shot at it. But I wouldn't put my hope on them, unless the OEA applies some pressure on our behalf (ie on behalf of the suburban teachers).

    We have two people from the Hilliard School District running for a seat on the State BOE this November. One is State Rep Larry Wolpert, who represents the western part of Franklin Cty, is on his last term due to term limits. The other is Kristen McKinley, who I don't know.

    The third candidate, James Moyer, lives on 14th Ave in the University district. He may be the same James Moyer who ran in 2004, coming in second.

    Sure hope we get one the Hilliard folks on the Board so the suburbs have another voice.


  35. Marc, I do share your concern but just trying to generate some awareness that we need to hold our state officials accountable. They act
    like they have our best interests in mind, but that goes by the wayside when it comes to big special interests and their campaign contributions.

    My comments last evening were simply to get our "local school interest groups and board, admin
    employess, etc" to pay attention
    to whom they are supporting. And hopefully, our board or associated ad hoc committee, could get candidates to come to us on a local level and try and get some information on where they stand
    Otherwise you will get, " I support a strong school system "

    Paul makes a good point also in his last comment on the real possibility of further reductions
    That should be something our school leaders should also be communicating.

    Just trying to get everyone to pay attention a little and motivate
    all of us to pay attention.

  36. I personally haven't witnessed any rettribution, but I'm not saying it can't happen. However, like Hilliardite, I got the same "look" and stare when I spoke at a Board meeting. It was right after a flurry of email activity between me and the board/admin. Well more me, than them. But I wasn't popular obviously. I'm still not I'm sure. But like you, at the first hint of retaliatory action, I will certainly take immediate action.

  37. Rick/Paul:

    I agree with both of your comments, however, what is required here is some straight talk.

    There are a dozen organizations in the state advocating for school funding reform. To most of them, school funding reform is a euphemism for "give us more", however, as Paul points out, the state does not have a giant warehouse full of cash. Even Governor Strickland acknowledges that tax increases would further depress the state's economy, so raising new revenues is also unlikely.

    Without new revenue, the only source of new money for K-12 education is to take it from somewhere else. It is difficult to see how this can happen. More likely, I suspect, is the shuffling of existing funds. The document that Paul refers to is here:


    Which shows that the transitional aid guarantee will either be cut to 95% or cut in half, depending on which section you look at. This implies a reduction for districts like Hilliard and Worthington that are currently on the guarantee.

    The message here is that as you hold candidates accountable for school funding, you really have ask specifically what they intend to do. Will they go along with the recommendations of the executive branch, will they continue to fully fund the guarantee, will they reallocate funds from somewhere else, will they raise taxes (which ones and why) etc..

    The constant drumbeat about the school funding formula being unconstitutional makes for a nice sound bite, but it is not terribly helpful. Further reducing property tax dependency means more money from the state, and there is no more money at the state level. When someone make the "unconstitutional" argument, ask for specifics.

    I personally see no way that districts like Hilliard, Dublin and Worthington win in this game. The best you can hope for is candidates who understand the dynamic and can represent you accordingly. We have two superstars in Worthington in Representative Bacon and Representative Hughes. Rep. Wolpert is also excellent and I'll be voting for him for State Board of Education. Rep. Hughes is running for State Senate.

    Sorry for the long post, but it is a complex subject.

  38. Marc, thanks for the link to upcoming state rep mtgs. I am hoping we will get more than one opportunity to ask questions and as a multiple amount of candidates are in these, it will be tough to get any real answers in the short period allowed.

    All the more reason that our district, or one of the board committees should get all of our district candidates to a meeting to discuss this important issue.