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LETTER: Can't justify school levy 'of questionable value'

Published: April 19, 2017 1:00 AM

Kudos to Gary Henrich for calling the Aurora Board of Education's handling of an upcoming 5.9-mill levy an embarrassment; we were promised no new levy would come this soon.

He states that, in addition to having several million dollars in reserve, property values funding the levy have increased by millions. He argues that "educational excellence" is no excuse for additional funding, because Aurora's schools have been top tier for years. For 2016, cleveland.com ranked them No. 9 in the state.

While proponents might argue that more money is needed to stay there, with over 300 public systems in Ohio, I doubt property values would suffer if we "plummeted" from the top 3 percent to the top 6 percent, or even 9 percent.

Before calling me "anti-education," know that I'm a college graduate with multiple professional licenses. My daughter graduated from college magna cum laude. My opposition stems from the 2012 levy results. In addition to the massive school levy, there was a modest 2-mill levy for police and safety Forces.

I believe that failed because the school levy passed. And if there's another police levy in the near future, I fear history may repeat itself. A recent Advocate article outlined recent increases in local crime. As Henrich pointed out, enrollment has stagnated over the past decade.

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While expensive public schools benefit students and parents, more resources for police and safety forces benefit everyone. If Aurora schools were nearer the bottom, and enrollment were increasing faster than the crime rate, I'd think otherwise.

But looking at the numbers, I can't justify that expense. I would rather afford a modest police levy later than be burdened with a major expense of questionable value now.

Scott D. Haseltine, Aurora

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PizzaPie55 May 9, 2017 10:32 PM

Gary, It is amusing that you accuse me of somehow infringing on your first amendment rights. In contrast to your comment I think the votes Aurora's citizens cast represented the most effective voice in determing how our money is spent.

Chemist May 4, 2017 2:48 PM

Pizza Pie's comments miss the point. "Crying wolf" is what the Schools do whenever they need money, not Henrich. They are the ones that threaten cuts when all that is needed is renegotiating contracts, not Henrich. Henrich isthe realist. He knows the educational sky will not fall just because a levy fails. Only a fool would think that. Perhaps Pizza Pie would like to pay 100% of his income in taxes,since indiscriminately paying more taxes is a "non-issue". Geez I thought citizens had a right to free speech and objection to taxes for a reason. Silly me, what did the Constitution framers know?

Pizza Pie is correct thatmany despise theunion. Unionized teaching America has a pathetic secondary educational ranking compared to many other countries. Did Pizza Pie know that money does not equal great education? It's true. Actually more accurately, I don't think all unions are wrong. Trade unions and blue collar worker unions of provate companies make sense. Why? because the management (with it's own money) and the workers are forced to make a deal that is healthy and profitable for both. In the case of public services and schools, it's completely different, but most indiscriminating folks don't see it. Think about it - the Board and the union employees make a deal irrespective of the normal budgetary constraints of a private enterprise. They just pass it on to taxpayers, exactly like they did to us in this levy! Ther eis no true "living within a budget". It's an open-ended affair where we foot the bill without an efective voice. This is why teh Board, must be held accountable. This is why as a recent writer urged - we need new leadership at teh Board. There is no incentive for them to stop spending other than thoughtful citizens like Henrich opposing them WITH THE FACTS. Does the brilliant Pizza Pie realize that according to CBS news report, America ranks #1 in education spending but yet ranks "in the middle of the pack" (Pew Research ) in science, math and reading internationally? Maybe Pizza Pie just likes watching Aurora football games and thats education to him. That's fine too, but pay to play is a small price to pay for a handful of affected families than burdening the entire city with new taxes.

I'm glad Pizza Pie brought up the final thought about the State, because it has deep consequences. Granted, it will take some time for any new budgetary realities to sink in when we have had deficit spending for decades. But at some point the best thing for maintaining educational independence will be to break the CONTROLLING tentacles of state and federal programs that dictate what schools can and more often can't do. Some of the cost adders to Aurora Schools are DICTATED by those programs. How much money was spent on great top-down ideas like integrated bussing beefore after many years everyone realized it was ineffective and a collossal waste of money?

PizzaPie55 Apr 25, 2017 12:41 PM

Gary Henrich's comments have been crying wolf over non-issues. Apparently he is the sole person to investigate school finances and he thinks he's in the right to critique a recent graduate's critical thinking skills (See the comments section of the other opinon piece). Looking at these same numbers, I'm glad the teachers are compensated fairly. Mr. Henrich doesn't like this and he doesn't like the teachers' union. He's apparently jealous.

It is also very hypocritical for Mr. Henrich to complain about the school district breaking their promise regarding when the next levy would come up, while at the same time celebrating the State's ever decreasing funding of public education (See comments on Mike Acomb's piece in opinion section).

Chemist Apr 20, 2017 3:21 PM

Mr. Haseltine: Good points! The writer is exactly correct about the safety levy, but in addition that particular levy was not well founded since Aurora had at the time (maybe still now) one of the lowest crime rates in the state.

But still, Mr. Haseltine's point that the school's dominating tax-grabbing position (76% of tax revenues) essentially crowds out city spending on improvements that help EVERYONE, not just families with kids in the school system.

For example, imagine if if the bond levy to fix the roads, were on the ballot on May 2nd. Chances are either our cars' shock absorbers or the school revenues would lose.

The point is we cannot just pass levies willy nilly becasue it feels good. We must examine the facts and weigh the argument unemotionally. And this levy is apermanent one. It is my understanding that voters will not have a chance to vote on a renewal of it and it will never go away. This is why many people are now calling it a FOREVER LEVY!

Judgingby the highly thumbs down ratings that anyone voicing oppositition to this levy ratingsis receiving, it is apparent that the pro-levier watchdogs are out to squelch the dissenters.

It's too bad so many of these people have closed their minds to the facts and have not investigated the schools finances moreclosely before villifying dissenters. This information is all public by contacting the Public Relations Director, Stacey Deanna. If anyone hasattended a neighborhood presentation from the Superintendent you can see thethere is transparency of information, and the school people are good people,but the information ishighly selective, exclusivelyto build the schools' casefor having to take no budgetary actions at all.There proposalis not sympathetic to the concern of burdened taxpayers at all. What other feedback mechansim do we have but to VOTE NO?

It is absolutely possible to be pro-education and pro-Auroa and still be opposed to this levy. Aurora is losing its appeal as a "value" city to live in with each ridiculous new school levy we pass, considering the enrollment is flat and the social injustice occurring from wages and benefits that exceed the average household in Aurora. This is what I am worried about as a 25 year resident and father of 4 children who have graduated from AHS.

If this levy is defeated, as it is likely to, The Board will be in an excellent bargaining position with the union in order tomake long term changes to the school union contractswhaich are bleeding the district, and in fact ALL public education districts statewide.