Friday, July 23, 2004

Fairfield school levy gets a boost

Rally urges vote for 6.9-mill tax

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

FAIRFIELD - They came to show support for the schools in the community where they work, where they play and where they raise their kids.

About 70 politicians, educators, business and civic leaders, pastors, students and parents came to an hourlong rally Thursday at Tori's Station to support a 6.9-mill operating levy that voters in Fairfield and Fairfield Township will decide in two weeks.

The levy would bring about $9.1 million annually and increase taxes about $211 on a $100,000 house.

It is the fourth time in the past three years voters have been asked to increase their taxes for day-to-day operations in this southern Butler County district of about 9,500 students.

The Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and Fairfield City Council along with the BEST - Building Excellent Schools Together - committee have endorsed the levy.

Parent Betsy Schaefer said she was in favor of the levy "to keep the school system strong."

Her two daughters, Jennifer and Sarah, have had good experiences in the district, and she wants that to continue.

Even businessman and resident Rick Segal, a self-proclaimed tight-fisted tax revolutionist, who worked to repeal a state sales tax, said he was in favor of the levy.

"I'm endorsing the first tax increase in my life. It's a matter of protecting what is yours," Segal said. Since the last levy failed in March, the school board approved more than $3 million in cuts, including high school busing and after-school activities. Spending over the next five years has also been reduced by $12 million.

Should the levy fail, another $7 million will be cut for the 2005-2006 school year, including about 100 teaching positions - almost 20 percent.

"I don't understand why it's polarized our community," said Nancy Lynch, pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church. "We have to find ways to build our community rather than tear it down."

The levy is opposed by Citizens for Accountability and Results in Education. The group has complained that teachers' salaries are increasing at a greater rate than inflation, largely because of automatic raises built into their contracts.

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