The importance of passing the school levy

By Mike Barhorst - Contributing columnist

When local voters go to the polls November 6, we are going to be asked to renew for 10 years the 9.23 mill emergency property tax levy. The levy originally passed in November 2009 and was renewed in May 2014.

The levy is a renewal. As a result, it will not result in new or additional taxes.

This renewal levy maintains local funding of $4,417,364 for the general operation of the district. In order to maintain student programs, educational services, instruction and support at current levels, the levy simply must be renewed!

I am supporting the levy, and will share some reasons why. When I was first elected to City Council in 1977, Sidney had the highest per capita unemployment rate of any city in Ohio. When I left office 12 years later, Sidney had the lowest unemployment rate per capita of any city in Ohio. The turnaround was a remarkable achievement, sparked by a great deal of hard work on the part of a number of individuals.

As I would meet with company officials who were visiting Sidney — sometimes for their initial visit, I quickly learned the importance they placed on quality education. One of the first three questions I was always asked concerned the quality of education that would be available to the families of the respective company’s employees if they chose to locate in Sidney.

Because of my unique role as both a civic leader and a Catholic school principal, the questions were sometimes very specific in nature. Fortunately, I had a good working relationship with Sidney City Schools Superintendent Roger McGee. I also knew a number of his teachers well (in fact, I was fortunate to be able to hire a few of them when they retired from public education.)

As a result, I was able to answer the questions company officials asked with honesty and candor, something the company executives appreciated. Although we didn’t “land” every company that came to visit, we were able to attract a good mix of businesses — most of which are still in Sidney today.

Passing the levy will enable the school to maintain a quality staff. Hiring and retaining quality teachers is essential for the future of the community; teachers want to teach where there is a sense of financial security and where they know their efforts are appreciated. Quality staff are better able to prepare students for a future we all know will be rapidly changing; it is estimated that today’s students will change careers (some of which have yet to be identified) at least three times — not jobs, but careers.

The levy will allow the facilities to continue to be updated — something increasing important in a system with aging buildings. Sidney Alternative School is 97 years old. Emerson, Longfellow and Whittier have been serving students for 68 years. Northwood is 61 years old. Sidney High School is 58 years old. Sidney’s newest building — Sidney Middle School — was constructed in 2004. The average age of the buildings is 62 — retirement age for over half the people in the United States.

In addition to promoting economic development, good schools help to increase property values. People want to live in districts that have strong schools, and choose not to live in communities that do not. Some of the highest property values in a surrounding community can be found in Oakwood, a community that consistently earns high grades on the state report card. Their citizens also pay some of the highest real estate taxes because they understanding the correlation between taxes and strong schools.

For most homeowners, our home is the largest single investment we will ever make. Maintaining the value of that investment makes sense. Saving $300 a year (the approximate tax for a home valued at $100,000) and having the value of your home diminish $1,000 a year is simply being “penny wise and pound foolish.” A vote for the levy helps protect your investment in your property.

Having great schools enhances community pride, and demonstrates that Sidney believes in investing in its future. It also demonstrates to students that the community believes that they are worth the investment.

Finally, strong schools enable school administrators not only the ability to retain strong teachers, but the ability to attract the best talent. As an administrator, I was always frustrated when I interviewed an outstanding applicant only to have them choose to sign a contract with another district where they could earn more money.

In short, the proceeds of the levy will continue to support the operations of the district. The funds generated will be used for general operating expenses such as supplies, materials, repairs, staffing needs, and capital improvements. It will help the district maintain the excellent programs that are already in place. The dollars will help the district continue to focus on academic excellence.

Great communities deserve great schools. Sidney is a great community. For all the reasons I’ve mentioned, let’s demonstrate to those who are watching that we understand the importance of strong schools and overwhelmingly support the renewal of the 9.23 mill emergency property tax levy

By Mike Barhorst

Contributing columnist

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.