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Risky Business

Boro PrideLast week The Springboro School Board voted unanimously to approve a two year contract for our teachers. I appreciate this and thank them for doing so. However, as is often the case, there is far more to the story. In the same special meeting where the contract was approved – a meeting in which public commentary is not required nor was offered – the same board unanimously approved to place a renewal levy on the ballot this fall, but at a far lower dollar amount. These votes were followed by a lengthy campaign speech by our board President in which she took complete credit for everything, gave no gratitude to the teachers or community, credited her budgeting policies with creating savings that are actually attributed to pipeline money that has nothing to do with her, and shamelessly pandered for votes and support from her radical supporters.

Make no mistake. The two unanimous votes happened that way for a reason. This majority of this board had no intention of negotiating with the teachers and was ready to push them to strike. The only way this was averted was through a deal. Agree to cut the levy by using speculative pipeline money from the additional pipeline that is being built and the teachers get their contract. This enabled the board President to avert a strike while also lowering taxes, pleasing her political base, but at what cost to our kids? What is particularly frustrating about this, beyond the shameless political pandering, is that our community was repeatedly told that there was no money available to negotiate with our teachers. The school board President is up for election this November, and with all of the negative press she has brought upon our community, she is hoping that perhaps she can simply buy back your votes with a meager tax cut – at the long term expense of the financial stability of our schools. Our community was dragged to the brink of crisis for what appears to be no reason other than political bullying, because according to the board now there is so much money that we can reduce the levy. This is yet another example of this board talking transparency, but not walking the talk. This is yet another reason why there is a complete and total lack of trust in the actions of this board, and why this levy reduction should be viewed with extreme skepticism.

The board admits that the amount of new pipeline money the district will receive is speculative. The current pipeline money is also not guaranteed, which amplifies the risk of lowering the renewal levy amount. To be clear, this is a renewal levy, not new money. The district has needs for books, infrastructure, transportation, and enhanced curriculum, which can not be adequately addressed with a cut in funding. The reduction in funding makes it impossible for the district to address any unforeseen expenses or to properly address future contracts. Our classes are too big, our electives have been cut, our staff is too thin, our buildings need serviced, and our expenditure per pupil is already far lower than comparable school districts. We do not have a spending problem, we have a planning problem.

It sounds great to save a few bucks from a lower school levy… until you realize that those dollars are an investment in our future. We have historically received great returns on our investment in education in Springboro. We spend less per pupil than all but 13 districts in the state, and still we are consistently recognized as a top performing district in the State. Yet, at some point the rubber band gets pulled too far and snaps. Once it snaps, putting it back together again is far more difficult than simply properly managing the tension you place on it to begin with.

The plan this board is setting forth is the type of aggressive, reckless financial planning that resulted in people living beyond their means, encountering a financial crisis, and then losing their homes in the recent housing crisis that rocked our country and hurt home prices in our community. Fiscal conservatism does not mean unnecessarily cutting revenue to the brink of disaster just to say you can save money. This thinking only benefits the short term, and is just a shameless ploy for votes. It is trying to have it all, when you know that having it all is not wise. You can’t “not spend” on schools and expect to have quality schools. For a while you can play the shell game and use smoke and mirrors to make things appear to be something they are not, but in the end the same tried and true principle of you get what you pay for will hold true. You can’t change principles. It’s the ant and the grasshopper. It’s the goose and the golden eggs. If you don’t save and plan and work and prepare for the future, eventually you will suffer the consequences. Some are willing to turn a blind eye to this and rejoice in saving a few bucks. I am not willing to prostitute my principles and allow this board to do as it pleases in exchange for a few bucks. I won’t sit by and watch them implement radical political ideas and bankrupt our district without raising my voice and saying I do not support this madness.

Nobody likes paying taxes, myself included. The important question I ask about taxes is “am I getting good value for my money?” In Springboro that answer is yes – with the exception of what our board spends on attorneys, consultants, and nonsense that is. Another important question is “are you paying less and getting more than surrounding or comparable communities?” Again the answer is yes. If that is the case, why would you want to aggressively push the envelope even further by betting on speculative revenue to save a very meager amount of money at the risk of incalculable loss? Why gamble with one of our community’s most valuable assets – our schools? These schools give us pride, attract new families, prepare our kids for success, and keep our property values strong. Any minor decrease in property taxes that we receive from this levy reduction is but a drop in the bucket compared to what we will lose if our schools become financially insolvent.

This board says they desire to move in the direction of unity and fairness, and yet at every turn their actions seek to divide this community and unfairly punish our children. Their lust for political power and short term financial gain masquerading as community service is shameful, and they should be shown the door in November.

I am doubtful that we can stop them from reducing the amount of the renewal levy. They have the votes and they are desperate to do something to shift attention away from their lawsuits and advocacy of gun initiatives, creationism, questionable curriculum instruction, charter schools, and radical politics. Nope, it is campaign season, and the time has come for them to try to buy back your trust and ultimately your vote. The other items on their agenda will undoubtedly be back, especially if they win in November. While I don’t think the levy decision will be changed, I do think it is critical for people to continue to speak out against this decision and to stand against the direction this board has chosen. Most importantly, people need to choose to stop this madness once and for all, and putting this board’s risky business out of business by sending this board President and her running mates packing in November.

Stay involved Springboro. We won a victory for our teachers, but the fight to take back our schools rages on. United we will stand for our children, our schools, and the future of our community.