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‘Vote no’ signs rally opposition

Alissa Widman Neese • Oct 11, 2013 at 9:47 AM

Individuals opposing a proposed Perkins Schools levy honed this message Wednesday when they met to share ideas about improving the relationship between the district and its taxpayers.

See those “vote no” signs in local yards?

Jim Rosin isn’t ashamed to admit he created 250 of them, as well as creating Citizens for Accountable Schools, the sponsor committee distributing them.

“I got fed up,” Rosin said. “I decided enough was enough and came up with the name because that’s all we want: accountability.”    Mary Bakewell, J Franklin, Kathie Mueller and Steven Pullano — all township residents who oppose the Perkins Schools levy on the November ballot — met with the Register at Rosin’s home Wednesday to discuss their self-declared grassroots committee.

They’re not against Perkins Schools, just its current methods of doing business, they said. “Something needs to change,” Mueller said. “We really have a disconnect in our community right now.”

Perkins Schools is proposing a 10-year, 6.73-mill levy on the November ballot, its third attempt this year to collect additional funds for operating expenses.

If approved, the levy would generate about $2.8 million a year, stabilizing the district’s budget and possibly restoring some programming and staffing reductions approved this summer.

It would cost the owner of an $100,000 home an additional $236 per year in taxes. Perkins Township residents currently pay $998 a year in school-related taxes.

The school district is expected to spend almost all of its reserve cash at the end of the school year, with a mere $23,500 remaining, according to its most recent five-year financial forecast. The district’s annual budget is about $21 million.

Members of Citizens for Accountable Schools claim the financial struggles could have been prevented.

A few of their points of contention with Perkins Schools officials:

• Moving “inside millage” — funding used for day-to-day operations — into a separate account for building improvements in 2011, in anticipation of constructing a new high school building.

• Spending $1.7 million to cover half the cost of constructing a new Perkins High School football stadium in 2012.

• Proposing a 10-year tax levy for a third time this year without considering smaller or shorter levy proposals.

• Increasing pay-toparticipate athletic fees to as high as $730 per high school sport, with the funds covering the district’s entire athletic budget and athletic director’s $109,000 salary.

Voters approving a levy is the only way to eliminate the fees.

“We can’t keep going down this path,” said Franklin, vying for a Perkins school board seat this fall. “I support the school 100 percent. But its leadership should focus on giving our kids the best education possible. That focus isn’t there right now.”

Franklin’s candidacy is part of the committee’s two-pronged approach: promote the need for change, and then do something about it.

The effort isn’t without its struggles.

Pullano and other committee members said several of their signs have gone missing from their yards recently, prompting them to file multiple reports with Perkins police regarding possible theft and criminal trespassing.

“Some people are afraid to speak up because of the backlash,” Bakewell said. “But if you don’t speak up now you’re just part of the problem rather than the solution.”

When approached at Wednesday’s school board meeting, Perkins Schools superintendent Jim Gunner told the Register he has no comment on the Citizens for Accountable Schools committee.

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