Getting the vote out

Election day is tomorrow; Perkins Schools emergency operating levy is only item on August ballot in four-county area
Alissa Widman Neese
Aug 5, 2013
Tuesday’s special election will be a quick day at the polls for area voters.
 
A Perkins Schools tax levy, the district’s second attempt for new funds this year, is the only item on the August ballot in the four-county area. The 10-year, 6.73-mill levy would generate about $2.8 million annually for the district, which would stabilize its deficit budget and restore $2 million in costly cuts approved earlier this summer.
 
Many consider the contentious levy debate a divisive issue. 
 
But to Citizens for Perkins Schools, a recently organized levy committee consisting of hundreds of volunteers, it’s one of the largest unifying forces the district has seen in decades.  
Committee members have blanketed the area with reinvigorated Perkins Schools passion and reliable facts, they say.
 
They’ve hosted handfuls of informative events, including serious sit-down discussions, a weekend “Fun Fest” and a parade Saturday headed by an ice cream truck.
By getting involved in the community, the self-declared grassroots group hopes to gather its much-needed support.
 
“We all volunteered to come together because we believe in this district, these teachers and these kids,” said Jason Bennett, committee chair. “It’s brought the community together in a way we’ve never seen before, to support our kids, our future.”
 
The history
Citizens for Perkins Schools members didn’t get involved because they expected their job would be easy.
 
Although levy opposers don’t have a comparable organized effort, the group has consistently made its views known at the polls with overwhelming “no” votes. Most recently in May, voters rejected a 10-year, 4.98-mill proposal, with about 64 percent voting against it. Voters barely approved a five-year, 2-mill permanent improvement levy, a renewal, by a slim margin of 51 percent the same day.
 
Voters have not approved a new operating levy for the district since 2000. Before then, voters most recently approved a levy in 1991.
 
Several Perkins Township voters at the polls in May, some retired, said they're cutting back and can't afford an increase in monthly taxes.
 
New campaign strategies
This spring, about 12 people manned any efforts to promote Perkins Schools at the May polls.
 
This summer, the effort has swelled to at least 300 people, under the new, unified name Citizens for Perkins Schools. District parents Jason and Brandy Bennett lead the committee, with the help of individuals heading nine different sub-committees. Each leader, a community member, is paired with a school employee. Members include district parents, alumni and students.
 
The new group’s efforts include campaigning door-to-door, posting on social media and news websites, hosting community gatherings and question-and-answer sessions, making phone calls, distributing hundreds of yard signs and keeping voters updated on their website, perkinslevy.com. 
 
Their goals are simple: battle misinformation with the truth, keep voters informed and use multiple means to be accessible to a broad audience.
 
“What I said a month ago, I still mean it — I don’t care how they vote, as long as they vote informed,” said Jason Dulaney, a sub-committee chair. “As I talked to people door-to-door an overwhelming majority of the feedback was positive. It was a great experience to talk to them, answer questions and objectively listen.”
 
Citizens for Perkins Schools hopes its increased efforts will generate the district’s first “yes” vote in 13 years.
 
Its members also hope the new campaign strategies will increase voter turnout in August. They have helped several individuals register to vote since the past election. Less than 40 percent of Perkins Township’s 10,000 voters came to the polls in May.
 
What’s at stake if it fails
Without additional funds, Perkins Schools is projecting a $2.6 million deficit for the upcoming school year with a budget of about $23 million, according to its most recent five-year financial forecast. It is set to spend all its reserve cash in 2014.
 
Because a district can’t begin a school year projecting a significant deficit, board members approved a slew of district-wide cuts in June, putting this year’s total budget reductions at more than $12 million for the next five years, with more than 40 positions eliminated.
 
Most eliminated staff members taught special classes, including art, music, computer and physical education.
 
The hot-button issue: The June reductions also hiked pay-to-participate fees to $730 per sport per high school athlete, up from a $150 fee approved in April. Costs for dual enrollment classes, clubs and music activities also increased substantially for high school and middle school students.
 
If the levy isn’t approved, all the reductions will be permanent and more cuts are likely looming. Board members have already certified a similar emergency operating levy for the November ballot, which they are expected to approve Wednesday.
 
What happens if it passes
If approved, the August levy will generate about $2.8 million annually for Perkins Schools, stabilizing the district’s deficit budget. 
 
The new money will fund day-to-day operations for the district, including employee salaries and benefits. The additional funds will also reverse all the June reductions, about $2 million total, allowing board members to restore eliminated staff positions and return pay-to-participate fees to their normal rates.
 
The levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $206 per year. Perkins Township residents currently pay $998 total in school taxes per year.
 
Last chance for lower tax rates
An additional, one-time factor in Tuesday’s election is a recently approved portion of the new state budget.
 
Citizens for Perkins Schools members are urging voters to approve the levy now, rather than later, because an identical Perkins Schools levy will cost taxpayers more starting in September, according to the budget.
 
Until this year, the state paid a portion of approved levies through two tax exemptions, one 10 percent and one 2.5 percent, Erie County auditor Rick Jeffrey said. Now, according to the new budget, taxpayers will pay the entirety of future levies.
 
Simply put: If approved in August, the levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $206 per year. If the levy fails and is approved in November, it will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $236 per year, a 14.25 percent increase of $30.
 
Existing and renewal levies will not be affected by the tax exemption changes.
 
“It’s so important voters understand the urgency to pass this now, when it costs them less,” said John Schlessman, a sub-committee chair. “We’re doing everything we can these last few days to help educate and inform people so the can get out and vote based on the facts.”
 
 
Perkins Schools emergency operating levy proposal
MILLAGE: 6.73
LENGTH: 10 years
ANNUAL COST TO OWNER OF $100,000 HOME: $206
ANNUAL FUNDS GENERATED FOR DISTRICT: About $2.8 million
USE: Day-to-day operations, including employee salaries and benefits

Comments

Centauri

Computer age. Bricks and mortar schools are obsolete.

http://www.edbasic.com/?p=3372
"Brick and mortar schools are terribly expensive for taxpayers, and the quality of the academic product is at an all-time low. Yes, the stage is set. Liberal indoctrination is rampant in a school atmosphere that is hardly distinguishable from warehousing in community daycare centers. College the same. Brick and mortar schools are a thing of the past, already obsolete."

queenjhb

@ strong schools, stop drinking the Kool-Aid.

Gardenman

I saw quite a few of the volunteers and so many were parents and they had their kids with them wearing the various Perkins Pirates shirts for a particular sport. Looking at the figures of a $100,000 in value hoMe I see my taxes would raise $206 per year. I am sure those parents with just one child are paying that and more for their kid to play football etc.

As good friends of ours say vote for the levy and let the community share the cost of MY child playing sports. Saves me paying.

SO the retired couple next door living on Social Security pays for their kid to have fun playing football or the widow down the street on a limited income can pay for their kid to have FUN Friday night playing football.

I guess how the retired couple pays for the additional taxes or the widow down the street can pay the extra $$$ to Erie County Auditor is OH WELL BY MANY OF THE PARENTS....its HEY saves me paying for MY KID to have FUN playing football on Friday night.

Good 2 B Me

EXACTLY!! Why should they pay for it when you and I can!

Education is much more valuable than sports to a kids' future!

Strong Schools ...

We need to come together as a community and support the students, They need to see us stand up for them and show them that we believe in their education. Vote Yes and support your community!

Good 2 B Me

NO!!

Strong Schools ...

Yes!

Good 2 B Me

Afraid not! Too little too late AGAIN!

Gardenman

Strong Schools......all great words that spin well for kids and education etc BUT where the rubber meets the road is where it really is.

YOU want folks to vote for the levy for all good reason but YOU will be no where to be found when the tax bill comes due for so the many who can not afford this. Unless you tell me YOU are willing to help in your neighborhood pay the tax increase of those who can not afford it then your words have fallen on death ears.

queenjhb

@ strong schools, We are coming together to vote no , spend your money , not mine.

swamprooster75

15G How much school tax would you be willing to pay for Perkins education?

fifteenthgreen

They had a surplus and they spent it. Not sure why they would gift 1.7 million to the stadium knowing this crisis was inevitable. I'm confident the boosters could have raised the entire amount.

Bherrle

Why is it that you feel the boosters could have raised the entire amount?

Did continued state funding cuts, and decreasing property tax revenues, have anything to do with that surplus being depleted? How about the rising costs of consumables, such as fuel, energy, natural gas, etc.?

fifteenthgreen

Because they did a great job raising the first 1.7 million. They easily could have raised the additional funds necessary. They're that good!

Good 2 B Me

True 15!

Bherrle

15th,

In response to your post "Because they did a great job raising the first 1.7 million. They easily could have raised the additional funds necessary. They're that good!"

Really? So you think it was easy raising the first $1.7M? And you are assuming that those who privately donated would have done so if the school district wasn't putting up matching funds? And your assuming that they and even more businesses and citizens would have been willing to pay for the whole thing? That's a lot of assumptions. Do you have a fund raising plan to back that up?

Don't get me wrong, I think our Athletic Boosters are awesome in every way. They took what was going to be a $1.7M project, and doubled it's value.

Centauri

"They had a surplus and they spent it. Not sure why they would gift 1.7 million to the stadium knowing this crisis was inevitable."

Excellent comment!

How will that $3.5 million loan be repaid? Anybody care to answer?

beesknees

donutshopguy,
I am sorry that this has happened to you. You have a real heart. I totally respect you. I hope when others read this, they will see the real truth. vote NO!

Strong Schools ...

Vote Yes.

fifteenthgreen

What happened to DSG?

Centauri

He and he family faced some intimidation tactics from the pro-levy supporters. Bullies do that.

Truth or Fiction

86 comments within 12 hours of release. It was not the content as any article dealing with tomorrow's levy would have generated the same passion. The issue is not sports but education. The cost to educate one student pushes the $9-10k limit. Perkins has been fortunate by having a larger commercial component combined with a large residential population that has spread the wealth providing more money than other school districts for each millage passed. We have reaped the benefit of these demographics by not having a levy issue for over a decade.

Tomorrow's vote is important. Failure of this levy will affect everyone - property owners, businesses, and students. I hope the community understands the importance and votes Yes for the levy.

Good 2 B Me

Fiction!

Bherrle

Truth!

Strong Schools ...

Truth!

Centauri

So why did all of my questions go unanswered in the other story with over 700 comments? I see that the SR took it down. All of my links are listed there.

How will that $3.5 million loan be paid off?

How much revenue do sports bring to the schools?

Why did the school help fund the stadium with $1.7 million?

Only answers backed by public documents will be accepted. No tap dancing around the questions.

No opinions or BS. I want to see official public documentation.

Good 2 B Me

What you said Centauri!

Bherrle

Centauri,

Your position on this levy has already been stated. You are against it.

I have previously commended you on your tactics of diversion with questions and information. Keep em' busy chasing down answers to the same questions, and documents. The answers to your questions have already been provided, either here on the blogs, or on the levy site.

If you really wanted to help, you would provide information, and explain what it means.

Good 2 B Me

Bherrle,

Your position on this levy has already been stated. You are in favor of it.

We also have the right to see the facts. Insinuating that Centauri is distracting us 'No' voters and sending us on a wild goose chase is insulting. It nsults our intelligence. We are voting no based on the facts. Not, some blogs and made up numbers. Our numbers are accurate and consistant, unlike the numbers and statements of the levy committee!

swamprooster75

15G, The 1.7 million is what the BOE would have spent on the track just to get it up to specs. The boosters asked if they could combine it with there fundraising dollars an build a public facility we could all be proud of. I've taking my family there more than once and its wonderful.

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