Only one of four people vying for seats on the Perkins school board believes a superintendent should have to live in the district.
Four Perkins Schools candidates seeking two open seats — Michael Ahner, Terry Chapman, J Franklin and Richard Uher — weighed in on the often hot-button issue during a Register-sponsored debate Thursday evening at Chet and Matt’s Pizza.
About 50 people attended the event in the restaurant’s banquet hall.
To connect with a community, Franklin said a district’s top leader, including Perkins School superintendent Jim Gunner, who lives near Toledo, must reside in his or her district. Ahner, Chapman and Uher said it shouldn’t be required, although it’s preferred because it sends a strong, positive message to taxpayers.
“It’s the job you do, not where you live that makes the difference,” Uher said. “If you can’t get the right candidate (in Perkins Township) and they’re not willing to move, you bring the best superintendent in to do the job regardless of where they live.”
Other inquires from the crowd targeted the district’s fiscal future. Candidates discussed tax levies and a dwindling budget, as all the district’s reserve funds will be spent by the end of the current school year. While the candidates all agreed a tax levy is inevitable, they disagreed on how much money the district should seek from taxpayers, especially given the board’s 2011 decision to move “inside millage” — funding used for day-to-day operations — into a separate account for building improvements.
The polarizing decision has effectively segmented the Perkins community, and it was reflected in the four candidates as well.
Ahner and Franklin proposed returning the 5.2 mills of funds back into the operating budget and then asking taxpayers for a smaller levy, possibly 2 mills, to get by in the short term. A future levy or bond issue would be required to fund building projects.
“The first thing we need to do is reverse the inside millage move that wasn’t voted on,” Franklin said. “It wasn’t illegal but it was unethical.”
Uher and Chapman said keeping the funds in their current location is the most feasible, cost-effective longterm option.
The district is proposing a 10-year, 6.73-mill levy on the November ballot — its third levy attempt this year
— which both candidates said they support. The new funds would replenish the depleted operating fund while also supporting new building projects without an additional levy or bond issue.
“Moving the millage back is just a temporary fix,” Chapman said. “The move was not unethical. We as a district and a board have to manage our operational budget and our facilities, and we chose to move the millage to protect our facilities.”
The four candidates are seeking a four-year term on the Perkins school board. The election is Nov. 5.
Watch the debate in the player provided below