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Let Them Try Again

By: Todd Baucher; Brittany Lowe Email
By: Todd Baucher; Brittany Lowe Email

UPDATED: 9/27/12

A Warren Local School Levy sits on the November ballot for the sixth time but this time they say buses will definitely come back if it passes.

It's the 14th largest district in the entire state of Ohio, covering 200 square miles, and it's not currently running any buses for high school students.

This time around the levy asks for less money and shorter term than the five previously rejected levies. Superintendent Tom Gibbs says if the levy passes, buses will be up and running as soon as possible.

One 20 year bond will would support a new Warren High School with the other ten year going towards repairing the other existing school.

Along with cutting the buses, the district has also cut nearly one hundred jobs with the financial situation. Superintendent Gibbs says no school in the district has been updated since before computers were in schools.

"Well our biggest challenge, and I've said this all along, is the infrastructure and in large part the things you can't see, the plumbing in walls, the electrical systems, so we've had challenges with upgrading to the latest technology in some of our building," explains Superintendent Gibbs, "because we don't have the electrical capacity to handle the technology. Keeping in mind that our oldest building was built in 1937."

Gibbs says the district has a slightly higher than average family income and lower than forty percent reduced lunch rate. These factors play a part in government funding, compared to other schools. "We don't get the additional support that very poor communities get but our folks don't feel quite like they're making enough money that they routinely vote for local levies and we kind of get pinched in the middle, so to speak."

Out of 611 school districts in Ohio, Warren Local is the 22nd lowest school district in spending per student, that includes things like staffing and building operations..

To calculate how much each levy will cost visit:
http://www.washingtoncountyauditor.us/ and click on the left where it says "Levy Calculator"

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The Warren Local Board of Education says the combined bond and levy issue totals $14 to 17 million less than previous issues. It also has scaled down past plans for new school construction, although one current building is slated to be eliminated.

"What we're going to do is tear down Barlow-Vincent Elementary school, and move the kids into the existing high school," says board member John Nichols. "This will also have a five-mill permanent improvement levy, which is to expire in ten years, is expected to generate $11.5 million to use for improvements to existing Warren and Little Hocking Elementary schools."

While it's scaled back, it is related to levies which have been rejected five previous times. Residents we spoke to have mixed feelings about this latest proposal.

"I can see how they need a new school," says Esther Davis, "but I can't understand their thinking about building a new high school and then using the old one for a grade school."

"I don't know if they need that much money," says Gary Davis, "but I know they do need funding."

Asked about its chances, Steve Horner said, "I think chances are it's probably going to go the same as it did before."

Levies traditionally have a difficult time passing in Warren Schools. A parent who attended tuesday's meeting, and who supports this issue, explains it this way.

"Financially, they can't make it in this economy, and I understand that," says parent and local attorney Ray Smith. "Some people are mad at the administration or the teachers or the school system and it's a personal vendetta of a situation, and some people will never pass increased taxes. So put those together, and it's difficult passing a levy."

The deadline for submitting issues for Ohio's November ballot is next Wednesday, August 8.


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