Friday, October 22, 2004

Sycamore levy's battle lines clear

Pro, anti-levy groups debate again

By Sheila McLaughlin
Enquirer staff writer

BLUE ASH - The levy amount was scaled back, and so was the payroll.

But the message is the same from the factions that continue to battle since an August levy failed. Voters in the Sycamore district of 5,500 students face a Nov. 2 decision on whether to pump more money into their school system or face even more cuts.

WHAT IT WOULD RAISE: $8.8 million a year for district operations
LENGTH: Five years
COST: $168 more annually for a home valued at $100,000
For information or to volunteer on either side of the levy issue contact:
• Community Leadership for a Strong Sycamore, (513)791-1884 or e-mail
• Citizens for Responsible Fiscal Management, c/o Peter Bertoli, Treasurer
9240 Village Green Drive
Montgomery, Ohio 45242
Levy supporters again are campaigning with fliers and neighborhood meetings stressing the importance of maintaining property values and excellence in the schools by passing the levy.

"If our community wants to remain competitive in the school market and take action against declining enrollment, we've got to pass levies," said Susan Johnstal, co-chair of the pro-levy Community Leadership for a Strong Sycamore.

The 5.5-mill, five-year levy would raise $8.8 million annually. The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $168 more in taxes annually for the next five years.

Opponents who helped defeat a 7.9-mill continuing levy in August claim to be 200 members strong in a group called Citizens for Responsible Fiscal Management.

They blame the budget problems on $60 million in building projects, including replacement of Montgomery Elementary despite declining enrollment; some of the highest teacher salaries in the state that have pushed per pupil expenditures above the norm, and a push by some parents for special classes that have limited interest or enrollment.

Member George Rehfeldt, of Montgomery, said he's not opposed to a levy if teachers and parents make concessions.

"We hear nothing but the taxpayer is going to contribute another $40 million. If (teachers) stepped up and said we will take a three-year moratorium on raises, I'd vote for the levy," Rehfeldt said.

District officials so far have trimmed $6.1 million from this year's budget by cutting back on some services and eliminating 88 positions - about half of them teachers.

Another $2.2 million and 34 staff positions will be trimmed for the 2005-06 school year, even if the levy passes.

If the levy fails, the district will trim $4.1 million more in the 2005-06 school year by reducing 52 additional positions, as well as classes and services.


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