Open letter to the Perkins Community

Letter from Perkins schools superintendent Jim Gunner.
Register
Oct 25, 2013

Perkins Community:

The Perkins School District levy is critical to providing ongoing quality education to the students of Perkins now and in the future.  This levy addresses both the day-to-day operational costs necessary to run the district as well as a solid plan to renovate and or build new facilities all at a modest cost.  Without the passage of this levy, additional reductions will make it more difficult for our students to have the education they need to be prepared for life in the 21st Century.

The Board and I recognize there is an active "No" voter campaign in the community.  But, what do they offer?  As I have listened to those who oppose the levy, they indicate three actions they would take:

1. Fire me as superintendent

2. Elect two new Board members to promote a change of direction

3. Move the "Inside Millage" back to general operations.

These actions fail to provide a long-term solution to the financial and facility problems the school district faces.  If the "No" voter campaign did their homework, they would discover their plan costs taxpayers significantly more, approximately 11.85 mils compared to the Board’s proposed 6.73 mils. Ask yourself as a taxpayer, do you want to pay almost twice as much to have a direct vote on the building of a new facility? Or do you want to trust Board members you elected who researched all available options over three years, involved four different community committees in the process and have proposed a long-term plan to solve both operations and facilities and keeps your school tax rate the lowest in Erie County?

This is what the “No” voters campaign will really cost you as Perkins taxpayers:

1.53 mils -   (6.73 – 5.2 = 1.53; Difference in Board's request from Inside Millage

1.78 mils  - (1.78 mils required to pay off the loan if “Inside Millage” is moved)

1.34 mils  - (1.34 mils to make up for tax collection starting in 2015 instead of 2014)

7.20 mils - (Bond Levy required to build the same cost building proposed by Board)

11.85 mils - needed to solve fiscal and facility problems as proposed by “No” voters

The "No" voter campaign indicates that we should just move the "Inside millage" back to general operations and then we could maybe pass a small 2 mil levy and everything would be all right.  This simply is untrue.  First, we cannot move the entire 5.2 mils of "Inside Millage" back to operations at the current time, unless we generate additional money to pay off the $3.5 million loan taken out by the Board.  Whether the "No" group agrees or not, the district has a $3.5 million loan that needs to be paid off over the next 4.5 years.  The annual payments of $770,000 are being paid from the "Inside Millage".  At least 1.78 mils of the "inside Millage" must be left in the Permanent Improvement fund for the next 4.5 years to pay off this debt. 

If a new Board of Education decides to move the “Inside Millage” back to the operations budget, this vote would take place no sooner than January 2014. Any “Inside Millage” moved back by this action would take effect with taxes collected in 2015, not 2014. In addition, if the November levy fails, the district would fail to receive an entire year's collection (Taxes collected during 2014) on the 6.73 mil levy, or another $2.9 million.  This $2.9 million dollar loss, by not passing a levy in November needs to be made up with either further reductions, or a larger future levy.  To raise an additional $2.9 million over five years would require an increase of 1.34 mils in any future levy.

But, let's not forget in this scenario, the "No" voters leave absolutely zero money for fixing our facilities. A traditional bond issue would require another vote of the community for at least a 7.2 mil initial bond rate to generate the same revenue the Board is suggesting by using the "inside millage".

So, really the "No" voters are asking the public to pass the equivalent of 11.85 mils to solve the operational and facility problems of the district. Is this the “Change” you want as a community? Is this the long-term planning you want for the district?

Secondly, the “No” voters would like to remove me as superintendent. And why do the “No” voters want to remove me?  Because I don' t live in the district, and a decision that required a vote, a 5-0 vote, by the members of the Board of Education who were elected to represent the voters, to move “Inside Millage” to fix facilities. These five elected members, after over three years of reviewing all fiscal options voted as your representatives to approve the proposed funding alternative of moving "Inside Millage" as a strategic move to fix facilities now and in the future. 

In the past five years, the district has had nine different Board of Education members.  All nine members, elected by the community, well respected diverse business and professional members of the community, have agreed that the current plan before the voters is the best plan to solve both operational and facility needs.  ALL of these Board members agree it is the least costly method for the taxpayers of Perkins.  Four different community committees as far back as Superintendents Buccierri and Rectenwald concluded the district facilities needed to be seriously addressed.  Three different independent construction firms have determined to repair our facilities is more costly than new buildings.  One of these firms ranked our high school as the school in the worst condition and in need of immediate replacement in the State of Ohio at the time.  The "No" voter campaign indicates we should form another community committee to examine the situation again.  After nine board members, eight years, four community committees, and three independent school construction firms have all concluded the same thing, what does another committee give us that we don't already know?

Don't be fooled by the "No" voters.  Consider some of the tactics used by the "No" voters during this campaign.

1. Smear the existing leadership of the district with half-truths, rumors, and innuendoes.

2. Spread half-truths through the "Blogs" where they refuse to identify who they are.

3. Threaten local business owners that display signs supporting the schools levy efforts.

4. Destroying and stealing pro-levy yard signs.

5. No real plan to solve the financial and facility issues facing the school and community.

Ultimately, it is up to the voters of Perkins to decide whom they will believe in this "War of Words".  The superintendent and Board have willing met with any individual or group to explain their position and have not changed their opinion in over three years on what is best for the school district and community.  Can the "No" voters explain how they are going to solve the complex financial problems of the school district?  I hope, as a voter in the Perkins community, you place the value of your children first and recognize that the duly elected Board of Education has done its best to solve very complex financial and facility problems at the best possible cost to you as taxpayers.

I hope you vote to support the Perkins Schools.

Jim Gunner, Superintendent

 

Comments

themomx6

"i don't know, i will learn that when i get there."

^^^ Sounds like Nancy Pelosi talking about Obamacare. :)

I'd rather have a jr. high student than Terry Chapman. He's nothing but a Gunner puppet.

fifteenthgreen

BAM! - themomx6

goodtime1212

Keep reading from some of the "yes votes" "get the facts". Facts that we know not in any particular order. The voters told the B.O.E. no to a new school a few years ago. The B.O.E moved millions of dollars out of the operating budget, to capital improvement budget and now clam they are broke and can not operate. B.O.E tried to say the High school is not save (even though they spent hundreds of thousands moving the B.O.E into the High School.) B.O.E. Spent millions of tax payers money to build a new stadium. After again the voters told them NO they tried scare tactics. Now here we are ONE MORE TIME to say NO. There is NO trust, that's what its about for us. I do have one question maybe someone can answer. If the pay to play fees pay for the over $100,000.00 salary for the athletic director, where dose all the ticket money go?

Food For Thought

Have any of you that are opposed to the levy spoken with Dr. Gunner. I am not for the levy, but after speaking with Dr. Gunner I can tell you that he is doing what he believes is what's right, he is sincere. I exchanged several e-mails with the man after he posted this open letter. I was under the impression that he was as most of you opposed to the levy portray him, but I didn't see the horns.

While I disagree with his long term plan for the future of the Perkins Schools, there is no need to spread this vitriol. Good people can disagree on things, but that is the heart of what makes America the greatest country in the world. Please stop with the personal attacks, focus on the issues.

fifteenthgreen

You were doing great right up until your last sentence.

Food For Thought

I don't agree but regardless, I will take that out of my post just for you.

fifteenthgreen

Better! While his intentions may have been the best, his message was certainly not clear, precise and consistent. Also, he was deceptive in his approach and many communication mistakes were made. Additionally, despite what anyone tells you, every board of education does what their superintendent tells them to. They acted on his vision and approved his agenda. All trust has been lost and it's simply time for a change in leadership. If you can tell me how he is going to regain the trust of the majority of "no" voters in this small community, please do. It's like a really, well qualified coach that has lost his team. He may still be a good coach on paper, but if you've lost your team, it's time for management to make a move....and you can't eliminate the team!

Food For Thought

I tend to agree with you 15th and I think there is not a problem with saying that Dr. Gunner needs to step down because the community has lost faith in him. Please do not mistake my plea for civility for approval of what has gone on over the past years. The problem that I am seeing here, and its a reflection of society in general, that rather than speak to the issues we attack people instead of the things that they stand for. I think that you can disagree with people without being a... well you know.

MrGadfly

Food,

The voting public has voiced their disapproval of the present financing and proposed new building a couple of times with large majority "no" votes. The superintendent and school board have ignored their mandate and have continued to pursue their own agenda. Rather than compromise as you requested the superintendent and school board dug in their heels and again push forward again the same proposals that have failed twice. That's working together...not.

This majority of the voting public now has put forward two candidates for election that have similar beliefs as them in regards to the finances and new school. They are pursuing the correct path in changing the school board mindset. Will Mr. Gunner change if new board members are elected? Time will tell.

Food For Thought

MrGadfly,

You mistake the intent of my post. I realize that he is set in his ways and that in their mind set the administration is the end all be all when it comes to knowledge. I think it is ok to set out substantive differences with the administration and even speak to some questionable ethics calls, i.e. the Citizens loan. I have no problem saying that they all need to be removed from their positions.

Your post is a good example of what I am talking about, there are some very good points in there, but you are addressing decisions made by the individuals instead of making personal attacks against those with whom you disagree. I think that disagreement, even if its polar, is vital to our society, I'm just not sure much is gained by attacking each other.

fifteenthgreen

Well said, FFT!

Food For Thought

Double Post

Bherrle

All No Voters / Undecided Voters,

This election/levy, and the past levy attempts, have not been and are not about just one thing/issue. Should one want to narrow it down to one thing, I would call it the long term viability of the school district. This is made up of 3 main components (which I will break down further in a separate post):

1. Fiscal Responsibility for Today & Tomorrow - This applies to both the school district and the tax paying community.

2. Safe and Quality Schools - Our facilities. It is not about how old they are, it is about how they were built, their current condition, and how to address those issues both short and long term.

3. 21st Century Education for our students - The cirriculum, incorporating technology, and the learning environment.

TellTheTruth

Bherrle, you should write a book with all the knowledge and information you feel qualified to impart to the rest of us. I have seen guys like you at conferences who feel obligated to share their knowledge and foresight with the rest of us less informed. You really make me laugh! Perhaps this is your form of humor?? You bore me.

Bherrle

Tell,

I'm making comments on a public forum, as a supporter of the levy, and I'm not hiding my identity. There are many no voters on this same forum trying to "inform" people as well, who do not share their identity. I find it interesting that you would criticize me, but not them.

In fact, I was actually responding to a question from 15th Green, from page 1, and I copied the post to the last page as well. SO it seems you are criticizing me for trying to answer a question. Centauri criticizes people for not answering questions. Which way do you guys want it? You two talk and let me know.

I don't presume I know more than anyone else, but I will share the information I have, and my reasons for being a supporter. I obviously have different opinions that some. And there are times when I learn things, such as yesterday. I had a phone conversation with an individual who I believe is currently a No Voter. This person informed me of some things that I was not aware of, and that I spent part of today looking into. I won't share the details because it is private to that individual. Needless to say this information probably won't change my vote on the overall funding and direction of the school issue, but I am glad that I learned about it. The fact that I support the levy does not mean I think our district and everyone in it is perfect.

Centauri

"Centauri criticizes people for not answering questions"

What is so hard about answering simple questions?

The voters want to know where ALL of the money is going. I asked about attorney and legal costs. No answer.

I asked when Dr. Gunner's contract was signed and which took effect August 1, 2008. No answer.

That Perkins Local SD pro-levy site has a bunch of "canned" questions and answers. The real questions go unanswered.

http://www.perkinsschools.org/Do...
"The downside of redirecting “Inside Millage” to a separate fund for renovation or replacement of school facilities, is this money is no longer available for the day-to-day operations of the school district."

Bherrle

IDlong brings up a very valid point. It's called "Tax Effort." This is a measure of a communities willingness to tax itself to support the school district. It is made of up current tax levels (millage), levy passages and failures, property value, and the income of the residents of each school district. 1 is an average score. Greater than 1 is above average support, and less than 1 is below average support.

All schools in Erie County are above 1, except Perkins. Perkins is at a .88, below average support from the community. In comparison, Sandusky is at 1.85, well above average support from the community.

fifteenthgreen

Does this include the other levy passages to include the Perkins Police, Perkins Fire and Ehove?

Bherrle

School district only

Centauri

http://www.perkinsschools.org/Do...
QUESTION: What was the nice round figure of $50,000 to the law firm Bricker & Eckler for?

underthebridge

$25,000 is for another law firm (Briton, Smith, & Peters)
$65,000 is for another law firm (Pebble & Waggoner)

With the $50,000 for Bricker & Eckler, we're up to $140,000 for lawyers fees. I'm not sure if this is an excessive amount or not, but it is certainly worth noting.

fifteenthgreen

$140,000 divided by an average of $275 an hour is 509 lawyer hours. That's a little excessive to say the least.

underthebridge

Think of it is this way, $140,000 over 5 years is $700,000. (gulp. that's a lot of cheese)

fifteenthgreen

Our cheese!

Subtle

Curiously, how much do other 21 million dollar a year businesses spend annually on lawyers? I would assume it's quite high, probably close to 100k, and that is in an environment that isn't the legal minefield that public school systems are.

Every little thing can turn into a multimillion dollar lawsuit, even things that didn't happen... if I'm not mistaken, the county is currently fending off a multimillion dollar fabrication. The point is, if you are going to take bids on a job you check with the lawyers. If you are going to sell pencils at the school store, you check with the lawyers. If you are going to have parents volunteer in the school, you check with the lawyers, if you are going to present your message to the community, you check with the lawyers.

Seriously, if you think 140k in legal fees for a 21 million dollar a year business (particularly a school) is excessive, you may need to look a little closer at the inner-workings of multimillion dollar entities.

fifteenthgreen

Not that much. Are you kidding me? I am a partner in a larger company! Most 21 million dollar businesses aren't in the public spotlight like a school system. Because of this, every little minefield you speak of usually becomes public knowledge. Not aware of too many multimillion dollar lawsuits that have occurred over the last year at Perkins. Also, I can't tell you the last time I called our team of lawyers regarding pencils...and we use one of their firms, as well! I would say 12 plus forty hour weeks of legal services is excessive. If they are utilizing legal services that much, I wonder what the back story is???

underthebridge

I think some of your examples are ridiculous. Every school district has a protocol for parent volunteers that is established by the ODE. I've been through it. Believe me, I know first hand that pencil sales did not generate billable hours for their lawyers. I would bet that the lawyers hours have to do with the current (and expected)litigation the district is facing, employee discipline, and contract negotiations.

underthebridge

This is from the 8-13 BOE meeting minutes

"Mr. Carroll moved, Mr. Chapman seconded to enter into Executive to discuss possible litigation and employment of personnel."

Subtle

Those were hypothetical examples, however, I know in my business, I tell my clients to check with their lawyers if they offer a new promotion, or change the verbiage on a tri-fold informational brochure. We advise private education businesses such as day care centers, preschools, and job-coaching services to consult their attorneys and have them approve every single form, waiver, or release and any subsequent alterations to them.

We advise all our clients to have their attorneys review employee handbook changes, drug testing policies, privacy policies... you name it... these days, if you have anything at all to lose, you have your lawyer review everything, right down to the disclaimer in your email signature.

fifteenthgreen

Maybe the district talks to their lawyers daily about the asbestos laced classrooms and how they've thrown good money at stadiums, loans and laptops rather than immediately taking care of a potential health nightmare. Maybe they're planning ahead for the class action lawsuits! Uh, stadium donation or asbestos removal.........stadium!

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