By Anna-Maria Thalassinos ’14
Organized opposition to the district’s request to a $5.8 mill operating levy, which includes former UA teachers, leaves the levy’s success in question. The levy is a $5.8 million funding request, which is the lowest millage requested tax since 1984. The previous levy in 2007 requested $6.2 million and lasted an additional two years to its originally proposed three.
According to the City of Upper Arlington website, the money from this levy will be used to “fund day-to-day operations at a school system, such as salaries, utilities, books and transportation.”
With approximately 78 percent of the district’s revenue generated from property taxes, the new funding would cost a home $178 more per year per $100,000 of appraised property value, ultimately providing $9.2 million to UA Schools annually, according to the City of Upper Arlington website.
Superintendent Jeffrey Weaver said that if the levy passes it will counterbalance the $2.6 million the district lost in state budget cuts and provide for inflationary increases.
“[It will] enable the district to continue to support the wide variety of academic offerings, extra- and co-curricular sports, clubs, art endeavors and activities for students while maintaining current staffing levels at UAHS,” Weaver said.
Citizens for UA Schools is an organization that supports the upcoming levy. Chris Yerington, co-chair of the group, said this funding will manage the balance between revenue and costs.
“The levy benefits the district by allowing it to work in a cooperative manner to control the growth of costs, and manage the district bills,” he said.
According to Yerington, if approved the tax will balance the current budget for the 2012-13 academic year as well as keep UA schools running as they do today.
He believes that a benefit for the high school specifically will be that new classes, programs, building maintenance and enhancements can be planned for and executed in a timely manner.
“Keeping an excellent high school excellent is actually a lot of work and that requires dependable revenue,” Yerington said.
Another point of view comes from Educate UA, an organization against the upcoming school levy. According to Joyce Blake, treasurer for Educate UA and a retired UA teacher, members of the group vary from parents with children at UA schools to retired UA teachers.
Blake said Educate UA wants the best for the community and is dedicated to high standards with high academic results. The difference, she said, is that its members do not believe that “more money leads to high results.”
“Educate UA believes that the school board and the administration have a duty in these tough economic times to ensure that they look at every aspect of the budget in order to cut costs before coming to the UA taxpayer,” Blake said.
She also said that UA, like all over the country, has been struck by job loss and lost value in retirement savings if citizens are on a fixed income.
“[Residents need] a strong community that cares for all of its citizens,” Blake said.
One of the goals of Educate UA is to put the school district on sustainable financial ground, so that in the future young people are not burdened with high taxes and can afford an education for their own children.
According to Blake, the lost cost of teachers’ health care necessitates is a reason why Educate UA deems the levy unneeded. While paying 28 percent of health care is the national average, UA school employees are only required to pay 10 percent, and in two years this will increase to only 15 percent.
“Even with this increase,” Blake said, “school employees will still pay almost 50 percent less than the average Ohioan for their health care.”
Overall, Weaver said he wants the best for UA Schools so that it can continue to prosper.
“I want to see the school district of Upper Arlington be able to continue to successfully prepare our students for the future,” Weaver said, “offering a depth and breadth of programs and services that will allow us to successfully fulfill the mission of our school district.”