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LETTER: Numbers indicate Aurora schools need some new money

Published: April 12, 2017 1:00 AM

Don't believe the rhetoric about our schools not needing a new tax levy.

The numbers speak for themselves and they say that this levy is a critical need.

One person said that property values being "up by $33 million" would feed the school district "a healthy diet of 'new' money even without a levy."

That statement is not true.

While some money is gained, the actual amount is so small that it doesn't even come close to covering the expected growth in expenses each year due solely to inflation.

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We should all understand the amount of funding our schools receive from the state has been cut drastically ($2.4 million per year) despite years of promises from Columbus that this would not happen.

This has pushed the district into deficit spending which will get worse every year without a new levy.

Prudent cuts have been made over the years, including $500,000 in energy savings.

A new levy is the only way to make up for the loss without forcing the district to provide the opposite of what we all expect -- continued excellence in educating our Aurora children.

Relate our overall local tax bills to comparable communities. Ours are the lowest, and will stay the lowest, even with the levy.

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We have schools that perform in the top 2 percent and our cost per pupil is the lowest of similar local districts.

As a longtime administrator in another district, I find school funding frustrating and confusing to people.

Ohio's school funding system is unfair and unjust. Broken financial promises have come from the state, not our local Board of Education.

Excellent schools are the bedrock of great communities, and Aurora has always been a community that supports each other and its children.

That's why we moved here.

Vote "yes" and keep Aurora schools great.

Mike Acomb, Aurora


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Chemist Apr 18, 2017 4:32 PM

The pro-levy forces are using classic bait and switch tactics in supporting this levy, by claiming the need for new money is not a "spending issue" and is instead a "revenue problem". While obviously state payments were cut to our district this should not have come as any surprise. The writing was on the wall. The question is what did they do to prepare for this day?

Our district was caught with their pants down and had since 2012 to substantially cut spending. What did they do? Let's not forget in their 2012 campaign literature they promised voters not to come begging for new money again until "at least 2018". These were the very words stated on their propaganda, of which I have a personal copy of!

So first off, placing the levy on the ballot was a BROKEN PROMISE.

But getting back to their statement that it's not about a "spending problem". This is laughable. Fortunately these days the salaries, pensions and benefitsof all school employees is public record, so anyone can investigate their claims, like I did.And what did I find?

Well, it paints a very telling picture of the REAL REASONS behind this levy and the bait and switch campaign.Ifcitizens saw this information they would be furious! Here is a distillation of some facts relating to my findings:

- only 42% of the 363 Aurora public school system are actually full time teachers. the rest are admin, transportation and support staff, including interventionists, counselorsand aids. It's a bonanza of opportunity, even if you’re not a teacher!

- but fortunately for the teachers, they are compensated very highly...like ridiculously highly- 34% of our full time teachers are earning over 100Kper year in salary + Board paid pension(for a9 month job). And that does not include health benefits (I'll get that). But hey, at least teachers teach, right

How about the rest of the school employees? oops I mean the majority 58%. Well it's not a bad gig for them either. For one thing they all get the same health bennies (medical, dental, prescription drug, vision). And it's a luscious plan - low deductibles, low premiums. These are called Cadillac plans. Do you have a Cadillac plan where you work? Me neither. The average school employee pays just ~13% of the medical premium. The other 87% is picked up by the Board, oops I mean you and me, the taxpayers.

If you examine the on-line pro-levy presentation being pumped by the Superintendent at his town hall meetings, the numbers don't even add up. I wrote the Superintendent about this last week and he still has not responded to the following simple set of facts RIGHTFROM THEIR OWN LITERATURE!

- 86% of the money the district collects goes right to salaries and benefits.

- teachers raises have only been ~ 1% per year for the last 5 years (showing off their cost savings)

- then it shows a chart of expenses and revenues. The expenses are going up at around 3% and the revenue line is flattening. Looks scary, but wait?...

… if salaries / benefits have only been rising at 1% per year and we know 86% ofexpenses are salaries and benefits,then why is the projected expense line rising three times higher than that. It’s bulging at a pace of $1.1M per year!!! The Superintendent and his pro-levy-don’t-look-too-closely-at-the-numbers cronies like to sweep this trend under the rug and blame it on "inflation". But inflationfrom what? energy prices are down and their numbers don't show wage pressures. Are they adding headcount? Are they stuffing the money somewhere else? THIS IS A GROSS ERROR AND MAKES NO SENSE

On the topic of headcount. Student enrollment at Aurora has been flat for 10 years now. While I have had 4 children educated with no complaints at AHS, one must ask the hard question: If Aurora schools are so great, why have not more families moved in to take advantage of our “great” schools. I'm just looking at the facts and asking obvious questions. We all would be wise not to let illusions dictate our emotions when it comes to voting for a levy that will cost us tens of thousands of dollars per homeowner over the years.

"MAINTAIN PROGRAMS"?

I must have a word on programs. The pro-leviers will point to our great “programs”, (code name for high salaries) while parents of children will point to the schools version of saving money by passing on all sorts of fees to parents. Well, when we have kindergarten teachers and elementary music teachers making over $120K per year in salary and all benefits, it leaves no choice but to penalize working moms with kids in all-day kindergarten to the tune of a couple thousand per year!

The bottom line is we have a bloated bureaucracy called public education, which is a real social injustice. What is happening in Aurora is just one example. Other districts are going through exactly the same thing as the State has shifted the responsibility for controlling costs on to the cities, where it belongs. State funding is a thing of the past. The sooner we realize this and deal with it fairly the sooner Aurora will be a better place to live. All public schools operate in a bubble that is unlike any other profession these days.We are fooling ourselves to think that money equates to education. And besides the Aurora Schools have a cash balance of over $7 million that can be drawn until 2019 to fall back on while they negotiate a sensible contract with the union to shift more of the medical premiums on to school employees, where it rightfully belongs in the first place. If they did that, chances are the levy request could be delayed for2 years and the millage cut in half.