Sunday, March 05, 2000

Levy supporters shift into high gear


Number of issues on Tuesday ballot

BY WALT SCHAEFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Last-minute efforts to persuade voters to approve school funding issues ranged from a street corner rally with a pep band in Deer Park to smiling, waving volunteers holding posters at key intersections in the 48-square mile Milford Exempted Village School District.

        As Tuesday's vote approaches, volunteers working school campaigns throughout southwest Ohio will make calls to parents and other school supporters urging them to cast ballots. Informational fliers will be mailed to registered voters and the issues will be prime topics for neighborhood discussions — both formal meetings and over-the-fence chats.

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        Levy supporters armed with information will be outside polling places Tuesday. Organized opposition to the efforts has not emerged.

        “We're planning to blitz neighborhoods with information this weekend and we are keying on certain neighborhoods,” said Bob Nelson, chairman of the campaign for a 5.3-mill bond issue for Milford schools.

        The 28-year issue would launch a $53 million capital improvement plan that includes a new middle school, bigger junior high school and eliminate portable classroom and make-shift classrooms in basements and storage closets.

        During a recent stroll in downtown Milford, residents' comments were favorable. “I support it for the resale value of our homes. You should have a good (community) school system although I send my children to Catholic schools,” said Kim Gerlach of Miami Township, Clermont County.

        Randall Richmond, 23, moved to Milford a month ago. “I went to Goshen High School and they are just getting a new building,” he said. “I experienced overcrowding in school and how it can hamper learning. I'll support this.”

        In Deer Park, supporters rallied at Plainfield and Galbraith roads on Saturday for the 7.99-mill continuing levy for operations, including 1.3 mills earmarked for building improvements and maintenance.

        Opinions of the levy were mixed during a random canvass at the Dillonvale Shopping Center, where the weekend rally will be centered.

        “Considering the age of the buildings, a leak in the auditorium roof (last year), I feel they need our support,” said Joyce St. George, 62, of Silverton. And, Jerry Phillips, 44, of Sycamore Township said: “I don't like tax increases, but sometimes they are necessary ... Schools are important to me. There's a real need.”

        Cathy Street, 35, disagrees. “I have two kids in the schools. We do not support it. We really don't see that they need the additional money. My kids get a fair education. They could get a better one, but the levy is not going to help. Teachers need to be more updated.” In the Three Rivers School District, which serves the western Hamilton County communities of Addyston, Cleves, North Bend and Miami Township, voters face an 8.2-mill continuing levy — a renewal of two expiring levies totaling 5.9 mills plus 2.3 mills in additional funds to deal with the rising costs of education and the loss of tax money from the Miami Fort power plant because of utility deregulation.

        “We've been talking to community groups, civic groups (and) had an informational meeting at the township hall (last week),” said schools Superintendent Richard Scherer. “We want to be sure the voters do not consider this a stealth campaign, but we went about it a little differently. We did not use yard signs.”

        Levy spokeswoman Marianne Rudisell said fliers were mailed to all residents last week. “We will make phone calls to all parents and levy supporters (this weekend).”

        A walk down Main Street in Cleves found residents in favor of the levy. John Spencer, 56, of Cleves said. “I send my child to private school, but I believe in backing all schools. Some people can't afford an education unless it's paid for through taxes.”

        “I've never voted a school issue down, and I'll support it,” said Marlenia Bennett, 35, of Cleves, who has two children in the schools. “Our math and science grades are down and that's something they need to address.” And, Lisa Brooks, 36, of Cleves, said: “We have a good school district and we need to keep it that way.”

        Voters in Butler County's Union and Liberty townships should have noticed more signs in neighborhoods this weekend supporting a 6.74-mill increase for Lakota Schools, including a 4.9-mill bond issue to raise $44.5 million for construction of an elementary and junior high school plus other capital improvements, along with a 1.84-mill levy for operating money.

        Putting up the last of 500 yard signs is just part of the final push, said Jon Weidlich, director of school and community relations. Volunteers also will be calling registered voters.

        Parent Linda Sullivan of Liberty Township supports the levy. “The amount it's going to raise my taxes is much less than it costs to educate (my children),” Mrs. Sullivan said.

        In the Mason Schools, where voters will decide a $71.9 million bond issue to pay for construction of a new high school and recreation center, 20 to 30 volunteers passed out literature and answered voter questions.

        While there has been no organized opposition, there are some who aren't convinced of the need or who oppose combining the issues.

        “My concern is we're not addressing the elementary issue,” said Sharon Hendrickson, a Mason mother of three. “Even after we build the high school and shift the students, we're still up to the maximum. I'm not opposed to the recreation center ... I just think our priority should be another elementary school.”

        Other school issues include:

        • In Monroe, voters will decide if they want to create a new school district by splitting Middletown and Monroe schools. Only residents within the proposed new district will vote — all of Monroe, part of Lemon Township and an 85-acre section now in the Lebanon School District.

        • A 2.23-mill, 25-year bond issue for Mariemont Schools to generate $8 million for a list of capital improvements to buildings throughout the district.

        • A new 8.9-mill continuing levy in Madeira Schools to generate $1.6 million a year to continue operations at the high level of performance district residents expect.

        • A 4.6-mill bond issue for Talawanda Schools, Butler County, to raise $29.9 million for building renovations and a 6.5 mill operating levy to generate $2.86 million annually to, in part, elevate teacher salaries from the second-lowest in the county.

        Sue Kiesewetter contributed to this report.

       

       



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