School board keeps its promise, returns about $7 to taxpayers
 

Thursday, March 15, 2007


ThisWeek Staff Writer

Seven dollars may only be enough for a small pizza, but returning it to taxpayers bought some piece of mind for school board members on Monday night.

Saying they were acting on principle, the Worthington Board of Education refused to accept the 3.89 mills of bond retirement proposed by board treasurer Jonathan Boyd and recommended by the Budget Commission of Franklin County.

Instead, taxpayers will pay 3.8 mills toward retiring bonds next years, saving the average Worthington property owner about $7.

Board member Marc Schare spotted the 3.89 mill figure in a routine recommendation to accept rates of taxation for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2007, to be collected in 2008.

He recalled that during the campaign for the bond issue approved by voters last November, the district promised that the bond retirement rates would never be higher than 3.8 mills.

Boyd said the higher amount was used because it was the exact millage levied last year, and would not have resulted in an increase in taxes.

Last fall, voters agreed to raise approximately $37.5-million over five years for capital improvements. They were told the issue would mean no new taxes, but would extend the length of time it would take to pay down the capital debt.

To bring the 3.89 mills to 3.8 mills will cost about $162,000. The board directed Boyd to pay that from interest being earned on the bond issue funds.

"If we gave our word to the community, let's keep our word," said board member David Bressman.

The vote was unanimous.

Also on Monday, the board did not approve a proposal to charge high school athletes $35 each next year to cover the cost of a weight room technician.

Currently, the cost of the technician, who covers both high schools, is paid through the athletic department budget.

With revenues decreasing and costs increasing, that budget can no longer be stretched to cover the weight room technician cost, said administrator Jim McElligott.

He led the committee that recommended that the cost be covered by student fees.

The athletic directors of both high school said they spoke to parents and booster groups and heard little opposition to the plan.

Both Worthington Kilbourne and Thomas Worthington have weight rooms that were paid for by volunteer booster organizations. The Kilbourne facility opened in 1997, the Thomas one five years later.

Until last fall, each weigh room had a full-time technician. Now Dan Stephens divides his time between the two, working with student athletes to oversee their training programs and to make sure equipment is used safely.

Schare called the proposal to charge students "a band-aid solution to a complicated issue" and suggested that the district undertake a comprehensive look at how athletics are funded.

"This is setting a really bad precedent for the district," he said.

Bressman said Schare was right.

"For me, this is wrong, wrong, wrong if this is a safety issue," Bressman said. "I'm morally opposed to making parents pay for their child's safety."

Administrators will investigate how other districts pay for weight room technicians and report back to the board.

Also on Monday, the board:

 

  • Learned that Mandarin Chinese will be offered to students who qualify at both high schools next year. The individualized course will be taught by Ohio State University instructors via online video conferences and will qualify students to earn college credits.

     

  • Heard parent Liz Holliday report that the district refuses to provide a much-needed aide to help her six-year-old daughter who has Down Syndrome. Other nearby districts do provide extra help for students with similar disabilities, she said. Board member Charlie Wilson said he received approximately six calls from parents with similar concerns. Board president Robert Horton told him to work with special education director Lynne Hamelberg to find answers for the parents.

    <center>cbrooks@thisweeknews.com