Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Fairfield trying again

5.6-mill levy on ballot

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD — With a student-teacher ratio of 21.46 to 1, Fairfield Schools had the second largest K-12 average class size among Butler County's 10 school districts for the pastyear.

        Educators say that ratio — the state average is 17.96 to 1 — will worsen if voters reject a 5.6-mill operating levy the board of education on Tuesday unanimously voted to put on the Nov. 6 ballot. The continuing levy, if approved, would bring an additional $5.9 million annually to school coffers. It would be enough money to keep the district solvent through June 2004.

        The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $171 annually if approved.

        “We have a great educational program now,” Superintendent Robert Farrell said. “We're the highest we've ever been in test scores. Without this levy, our educational program is in jeopardy. We would never tolerate being second to last in athletics. Why would we tolerate it for academics?.”        

Teacher fallout

        Should the levy fail in November, the district would have to make nearly $2 million in cuts — including laying off teachers — for the 2002-03 school year, Mr. Farrell said. It would come at a time when Fairfield is beginning to lose teachers to neighboring districts following May's defeat of a 2.9-mill levy.

        Half of Fairfield's teachers have master's degrees or better and the average teacher has 13 years of experience.        

Support waning

        After the May levy defeat, the district was notified its insurance premiums would increase by $880,000, a 25 percent increase. That increase is expected to continue the next two years, said J. Scott Gooding, Fairfield Schools treasurer. The Fairfield Classroom Teachers Association has agreed to postpone discussion of wages and benefits until after the November election even though its master contract expires next week.

        “Our day-to-day costs have gone up,” said Anne Crone, president of the Fairfield Board of Education. “In our own families, we've felt the added expenses of rising energy and other costs. A school district is no different. We're just a bigger family with more mouths to feed.”

        Parent Sharman Rhodus has been a supporter of, and volunteer in, the schools since her ninth-grade daughter started kindergarten but is undecided on this levy. She says Ohio must change how schools are funded.

        “I haven't made up my mind yet because of the increased amount,” Mrs. Rhodus said. “I don't want to see things canceled for kids ... but it's a big amount. They're (state legislators) going to have to do something other than tax property owners to get money for schools.”


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