Jefferson Twp. seeks levy for new school

The Jefferson Twp. Local School District has placed on the Nov. 6 ballot a $15.1 million bond issue to help build a new preK-12 school, and a 1.7-mill levy to generate $154,000 annually to maintain a new facility.

The “one vote” ballot issue would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $307 annually when the amounts for both parts are combined. It breaks down to $255 for the bond issue and $52 for the levy, according to the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office.

Superintendent Richard Gates called this a “once in a lifetime, use it or lose it opportunity” to have the state help the small district co-fund construction of a new school building.

Gates said the district’s theme this election season has been “It’s our turn and it’s our time.”

The district — which ended three years of fiscal emergency in 2011— has a chance to qualify for state funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

OSFC spokesman Rick Savors said earlier that in 2008, the school district had qualified for funding to build a $17 million school. At that time, the state’s expected share was 41 percent and the local share 59 percent. But the district’s financial woes forced it to withdraw that issue.

Now, with the district in a healthier financial situation, district officials believe the time is right to seek voter approval.

It’s not clear if the state’s share on the project could increase. Savors said the percentage of state and local funding is based on a formula determined by where a district appears on the eligibility ranking list the Ohio Department of Education updates yearly. “If there has been a change in that position, the state and local shares would change,” Savors said, noting it probably wouldn’t vary much.

“The bottom line is we don’t really know until we find out the district has the ability to raise its local share. If it does, we will go in and look at the numbers,” Savors said.

Jefferson Twp. resident Deborah Brown, 61, said she voted against the school issue two weeks ago by absentee ballot.

“They never sent out any kind of information about it at all,” she said. “In this economy, we’re all struggling. Give me some good reasons why you need it.”

Brown said she and her husband are retired and they don’t have kids in the school system. She questioned the need for a new school when, in her view, the existing junior/senior high and elementary school appear to be adequate.

“With a lot of people out of work, is this the right time to put up a new school?” Brown said. “Can’t you make due with the schools you have for a little bit longer until things turn around?”

The current school buildings were built in 1964. Gates said they have been plagued by maintenance issues and have had to get by with window air-conditioners to keep kids cool in hot weather. He also said the district also needs to be able to compete with neighboring districts that have new buildings, such as Dayton Public and Trotwood-Madison, so they can offer a 21st-century learning environment to Jefferson Twp. students.

“We want to make sure we can have an environment that is safe and as conducive to learning as possible,” Gates said.

Voters last approved new money for the district in 2008 in the form of a five-mill operating levy, officials said.

Jefferson Twp. Local Schools’ administrators’ average salary was $66,319 in fiscal year 2011, which is below the state average of $76,037. It is below the Dayton average of $83,097 and ranks second lowest of 40 area districts.

Gates said the district has tightened its belt in recent years, going from 15 Central Office administrators in 2008 and to five currently.

The district’s classroom teachers’ average salary was $40,667, which is below the state average of $57,904. It is also below the Dayton area average of $57,136, and ranks as the lowest of 40 area districts. The Dayton Daily News calculated the average based on the districts in Montgomery, Greene, Miami and Warren counties.

The district’s report card rating has improved from “Academic Watch” to “Continuous Improvement,” the equivalent of moving from a D to a C.

“We’ve had some gains,” Gates said. “We are not where we want to be but we are moving systematically in the right direction academically.”

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