Grove City Residents Hot About School Levy

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South-Western City Schools, for a second time this year, want voters to approve an operating levy. The levy will cost property owners $254 for every $100,000 in value.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)
South-Western City Schools, for a second time this year, want voters to approve an operating levy. The levy will cost property owners $254 for every $100,000 in value.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)

Voters in one part of Columbus will vote on two tax issues – the income tax and a school levy. South-Western City Schools is once again asking voters to increase their taxes. And once again the issue has generated fierce debate.

For the second time this year, voters in the South-Western City Schools district will cast ballots on a four-year operating levy. The ballot issue failed in May. School officials say if it fails again layoffs will ensue, extracurricular activities – including all sports – will cease and busing will be reduced.

For many Grove City residents the measure is extremely personal. Several restaurant owners did not want the issue even mentioned in their businesses. They worried customers would think they’ve taken a side. And ladies in a local beauty salon were sticking to a pact not to talk about the the issue because they always end up in a fight.

If the levy passes Grove City property owners will pay an additional $254 a year for each $100,000 in value.

Pam Parker stood out front of Parker’s Tavern on Broadway in the historic section of Grove City. She’s the owner.

“Where in Grove City can you find only a $100,000 house? They do that to make it sound like it’s not going to be that much,” Park said.

Parker has a granddaughter in the South-Western City Schools system. But she opposes the levy. Parker’s more concerned about her son who just took a ten percent pay cut at work.

“People are struggling. I think it’s more important that he feed his family and keep the roof over their heads than to put more into a school system that’s found money twice when they cried wolf. We’re done! How many times to people have to say no? No means no,” Parker said.

John MacKenzie sat outside Royal Caf . He’s a former substitute teacher. MacKenzie would not divulge how he’s going to vote – he said that’s private. But he suggested the system review how it spends its money.

“Bussing at the high school: now they’re talking about eliminating that. They should’ve eliminated it years and years ago because nobody uses it. All the students literally drive. I’ve seen 20 buses leave Grove City High School parking lot with no more than one or two students on them and some of them actually empty,” MacKenzie said.

Phil Honsey is the city’s administrator.

“I think it’s close. I’m personally hopeful that it will pass.”

Honsey said the school system is the city’s largest employer.

“From an economic development standpoint we’re very concerned about the economic impact that the loss of jobs would have should the schools be forced to do additional layoffs,” he said.

The levy lost by ten points in May, and predictions for Tuesday vary.

“I don’t think it will,” Fred Reiner said.

“Yes, I do. I think it will. I think it will squeak buy,” Cheryl Fahy said.

“Well I’m a senior citizen. And I can’t really afford to make any more payments. [So what are you going to do on Tuesday]? I’ll vote no,” Reiner said.

Bill Wise is the South-Western City Schools Superintendent. He’s hopeful it will pass. Wise called it a critical levy.

“The district has eliminated over $18 million in expenditures and eliminated over 300 positions. And every time we make eliminations it reduces opportunity for students and also impacts the community and the perception of the community as a whole,” he said.

Wise insists the school system is not crying wolf as some residents complain. He said the school board has already passed a resolution to put the cuts – layoffs, bussing, and extracurricular activities – into place.

“We’ve already submitted our letter to the Ohio High School Athletic Association. So all the steps and measures are in place so that if it does pass we can bring things back to the best of our ability, and if it’s not, because of the way school funding works in the state of Ohio, we don’t see any increase on voted millage, and so, really we only have the choice of additional reductions beyond this or coming back to the ballot at some point,” Wise said.