levy

All posts tagged levy

Elections results for November 6, 2018

Published November 7, 2018 by justicewg

Screenshot 2018-11-07 at 11.24.43 AM

The City Charter

There was nothing controversial about the revisions to the city charter that I could find. Was the 15% no vote because of something we didn’t know, or are there people who just vote no for everything?

The Dispensaries issue

Issue #32 was a referendum on whether the city’s ban on dispensaries should be overturned, in a twist of expectations, the wording of the issue required an understanding that Yes vote means No to dispensaries. Was the final 60% No vote a popular choice to allow dispensaries, so that local taxes would benefit from the addition of the marijuana dispensaries? Or was it just confusion caused by those who think “no” means “just say no”? If you were confused, please comment.

The Green Space ordinance

Citizen referendums have a big hurdle to cross from the beginning, they need a lot of signatures, and organizational momentum that can be hard to sustain. The Grandview city administration did a number on that momentum for the Green Space via legal challenges that went all the way to the Ohio Secretary of State. Even though the group was victorious in keeping the ordinance on the ballot, the strident opposition from the Mayor and City Attorney probably gave an insurmountable hit to the question about the actions of going through this method of bringing change to the city.

I also though the “taking our rights” push by the anti-#31 group was overblown, your rights were never in jeopardy unless you own a very specific, narrow strip of land. I don’t think the “right to do a lot split” was worth getting upset about. If the “rights” issue was so important, why isn’t the rights of a group of neighbors to organize and decide how they want development to look like on their own street worth standing up for?

The school levy

A close vote, I don’t think the pro-#6 group can call the result a mandate, nor can it be seen as a blank check for the board to go into warp speed on the wrecking ball for the middle school. It will be interesting to hear how the board and administration plan to heal the rift in the community over the facility process. More later.

All levies passed in FC

Dublin – 58% yes, $195 million bond issue with 7.9 mills additional money.

South-Western – 61% passed a $93.4 million bond issue.

Whitehall – 61% yes on a bond and millage.

Worthington – Separate bond and millage levies passed with 70% and 62% support.

Grandview Heights – 52% passed a combined bond and operational millage.

The voters in Franklin County were all confident in the economy, at least enough to pass school levies. Other schools had large bonds, but managed to pass them with much higher percentages. An obvious question – why was Worthington willing to pass their bond with 70% yes, while Grandview had the lowest approval number in the county?

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No on issue 6, part 3 – The Income tax option for Grandview Heights schools has been neglected

Published October 26, 2018 by justicewg

Three signs #6I have read a number of opponents of issue #6 who dislike the unfairness of the property tax the board wants to use for the facilities, and the loss of older and lower income segments of the community, as the taxes drive these people away*. Property taxes are inherently regressive, costing a larger percentage of the income for lower income people.

An income tax would still hurt those who have low incomes, but it would probably be a smaller hit, and impact all segments of the community the same. Why has the possibility of an income tax been almost totally dismissed throughout the facility review process?

Unanswered questions about income taxes

I checked back in past documents and found almost nothing about evaluating an income tax for the school facility improvements. During Community Engagement Meeting #6, held June 8, 2017, Treasurer Collier did say that there was a possibility of using an income tax.

https://www.ghcsd.org/apps/video/watch.jsp?v=150462

Skip ahead in the video by dragging the progress bar, at 1:26:10 an income tax is discussed. No projections were made by Collier for how much income tax would be needed to address the school needs. All questions about the possibility of an income tax were being left for the Finance committee.**

Treasurer Collier said that the Finance committee would be looking at the income tax possibility, but with no statement of support for an income tax from the school board, the committee was left to take all the heat generated from proposing an income tax. Without a specific mandate from the board to explore income taxes ( and come up with a plan, instead of a quick dismissal) , why would any committee place themselves in the position of proposing a new kind of tax?

Why would something as important as exploring the possibility of a new income tax for the school be left in the hands of a closed, no meeting notes, no accountability committee? This is the same question we asked about the recommendation from the Finance committee to add a one mill operation levy to the bond levy – why is a closed group, in violation of Ohio Open meeting laws, making decisions that should be made by the school board?

Why open meetings are important

We have no way to find out what happened in the Finance committee meetings. Was the option of an income tax even discussed? There was no recording of the meetings, there was no meeting notes. Emails to participants are not answered.

Maybe there was a significant number of FC members who thought that an income tax would be the best way to fund the school improvements? And if the community were allowed to attend those meetings, we could have noted who argued in favor, and the reasons they gave. We could take that information to the board, and ask them to revisit the possibility. We could have promoted the option of an income tax in community groups like G4G, and organized a groundswell of support for that option.

All those possibilities are gone, because the Finance committee was closed, because all of the process and deliberations of the group – which those members told us they did in depth and for many hours – are lost forever. Any new finance committee which may be needed to revisit the facility questions after a failed levy will have to start from zero.

The board should be the only group discussing tax options

Tax levies are the most important issues the board is legally empowered to decide for the schools. It is the basic floor that all the rest of the school system is built on. Unless the money from the taxpayers can be acquired by a board that is trusted, and earns the votes of the community, all of the planing and policy of the board means nothing.

School boards are supposed to be open, conducting all discussion on tax levies so the community can evaluate the arguments. We can listen, be persuaded — or be opposed. Most importantly, we can know which board members made what arguments. When elections for seats on the board come around, we can remember who we liked, and give them our vote. We can campaign against the members who don’t do a good job.

The foundation of democracy is listening to the public office holders, and making them accountable in the polling place.

When the Grandview Heights school board delegates vital issues to closed committees, they are breaking the laws of Ohio on open meetings. They are actively degrading the democratic basis of our community. We should never accept that as “the way we do things here”. We should be telling the board, over and over, “you are wrong, stop taking away out democratic rights”. We should keep doing that until they understand they are wrong – or until they are voted out of office.

Dayton Task force cancels meetings

Tip of the hat to Stephanie Wolfe. A Dayton school system tried to hold facility task force meetings in private, similar to the Grandview Task force and Finance committees. After complaints from news media that Ohio open meting laws required the meetings to allow everyone to attend, the meetings were canceled.

Previously – Vote no on issue #6, part 1

Vote no on issue #6, part 2

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Vote no on issue #6, part 2 – the NRI deal

Published October 19, 2018 by justicewg

Three signs #6The school is trying to complete a negotiation with NRI that could accelerate the tax payments from the Yard, to the point where the boost in tax money may becomes as much as 50% of the cost of the bond the board needs to build a new middle school. Why should voters pass the present levy, when we could have a significantly smaller one via waiting until the negotiations are finished?

The deal

Early in 2018, the school board started negotiation with NRI over increasing the rate of tax money coming from the Grandview Yard development. The board had almost completed the facility meetings, and had set themselves a goal of building a new middle school – the only uncompleted work was the finance committee recommendation to increase the already high $50 million plan from Culp up to a $55 million plan with the extra connector between the schools.

The board was also fully aware of the objections to the new school plan by the G4G group. That unprecedented group spelled levy doom for board members who were not living in a fantasy world. Normal, uncontroversial levies have only passed with 60% yes votes in the past, an opposition group insured failure of the levy (and the two additional NO on #6 groups are the nails in the levy coffin).

I’m of two minds over the board’s attempt to cut a new deal with NRI. Was it just an amateurish mistake to attempt to renegotiate taxes with NRI. and pass the bond at the same time? Even the slowest members on the board must have known they were shooting themselves in the feet with the uncertainty added by the NRI deal. I also think it might have been a desperation move by the board, they knew they would fail in the levy attempt, so they wanted to have some way to win – even if it was by completing a deal that would be bad for both the the school and the city. As long as they got some money, they could claim victory, as long as THEY were the ones who got some money out of NRI..

Whatever the motivation, we now have a deal in progress that might bring substantial money from Grandview Yard, well ahead of past deals. Lets look at what the Mayor said about the deal.

The Mayor and the council

Before the quotes from the Mayor, to be clear – he supports the school levy, So do all the council members who have been asked. They support it because:

It is a normal thing for the board and the council to support each other when they have a levy on the ballot. This is standard mutual support – it is what good politicians do *.

And the council will be asking for new tax money for a new city hall next May. They want the school levy issue completed so they are not both asking for new taxes at the same time.

The mayor speaks

How much additional money will (the NRI deal) mean to the school?
There are some initial estimates using various assumptions, but I do not want to speculate until we have an agreement. I believe we are close. It should be recognized that until recently the City and School have estimated only the dollars coming to the school of what is actually built. We both are fiscally conservative. Those figures indicated that the school would receive about $60 million over the next 20 years. For a long time, this was the figured used. We now have more information on what is being proposed in the current project, which would bring an estimated additional $18 million, or $78 million total to the school. Add to this the development to the south of Goodale and modified school compensation agreement and that figure could almost double. – Mayor DeGraw

Re-read that last sentence for the most important news. The school might be getting $78 million, through modifying the TIF agreement. But the additional taxes that might come from the construction of new buildings south of Goodale could be another boost, up to $156 million total.

This is the most important question – why are we being asked to pass a high levy by the board, when they are on the verge of receiving news that could completely change the financial position of the school?

Committee for Grandview Heights Schools pamphlet

The Pro-levy committee sent a brochure out to every home in the city, answering questions about the levy. What do they say about the NRI deal, in a bullet point section?

The need is now, and at this point no agreement has been reached with NRI.

OK, most taxpayers want to know what they are getting into, and can wait a year for a deal to be completed. What is the rush? Are their bulldozers sitting near the middle school, ready to start the demolition?

The NRI deal could reduced costs to residents by 50% , but could never cover the entire costs

So what? If my income might go up by 50%, I sure would want to wait until I know for sure, before I buy a house. Who cares what percentage the NRI deal covers? If it is significant, we should wait.

Delaying the project would result in added costs.

The committee doesn’t have a crystal ball that allows them foolproof projections on cost, but they do have this thing called “history”. The cost of construction went down in 2008, due to recession. “Costs always rise” is not true. Also, income to the school will be rising, because of the additional tax money from the Yard (tax money that was negotiated in the past, not the current deal). Everyone with any financial skills at all should be shouting “STOP, do not sign contracts for construction when your income is in flux”.

Waiting until the NRI deal is reached would not change the ballot millage, however, it would reduce the taxes the school could collect from residents.

I think the brain power of this committee just completely gave out at this point in the brochure. That talking point is one that belongs to the anti-levy groups, the important issue is the tax rates we are going to pay. If the need for operation millage is going down, we should wait until the financial position of the school is clear.

Implied in the statement “no change in the ballot millage” (I think they mean to say bond millage) is a threat – pass this levy, or we will come back, over and over, asking for the same amount. We will never listen to critics and cut the size of the school facility plan. That threat supports the need to vote the current board out of office.

Part three of my “reasons to vote no on issue #6” will be covering the effects of high taxes on the community, and how the board has failed to make obvious moves that could have protected fixed income and lower income residents.

The YT information session

In past years, the school used to hold public meetings before levies, and would answer questions from the community. I just read the following from the school:

Superintendent Culp and Treasurer Collier are holding an online Community Conversation on Monday, October 22 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. They will be at the YouTube feed at  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvM52He47uyzfX0bnjSsz-w.

The superintendent is so deep in the bunker, he can only answer pre-screened questions on YT? For one hour?

(Later) The YT session had “technical issues” and started late, and probably lost all the viewers. They only answered questions that were the softest of the softballs – for 26 minutes. There was one answer that was important, to a question about what the board will do when the levy fails. Will the board do some self examination, and rethink the $55 million plan? Or ignore all the critics, and start plans to cut programs at the schools? Spoiler – Culp only talks about the latter. More on this later.

Previously – Reasons to vote no on the levy, part 1 – The Grandview Heights school board is not trustworthy

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Reasons to vote no on the levy – The Grandview Heights school board is not trustworthy

Published September 28, 2018 by justicewg

culp in facility meeting 7There are many reasons for voters to give a thumb down on the school’s issue #6, but the one I have heard the most is “I don’t trust the school board”. Let’s look at all the ways the board has failed the community, and lost the trust that is needed for a functional school board.

The big lie about the Finance committee

The school board used deception and back-room dealing throughout the entire facility review process, but one lie topped them all – the claim that everything about the process would be open and transparent. This video (recorded by the school) captured the moment that superintendent Culp told the community that the Finance committee would be open, that minutes would be taken.

A community member asked superintendent Culp about the Finance committee, asked if there will be notice of meetings, public participation, minutes online. Culp said “I fully commit to that, I don’t think you can do it any other way.” The board later made the committee closed, with hand picked supporters, no meeting notes were allowed out of the room.

Andy Culp knew that the Facility Task Force had already been created as a closed, no visitor, no meeting notes allowed committee by the school board. He should have known that the board would do the same thing with the Finance committee. I think it’s likely he knew he was lying to the parents at this meetings. But if we take him at his word, and accept that he was “fully committed” to an open Finance committee, what does that say about the relationship with the school board? They knew that he had staked his integrity on the stand he took for an open Finance committee – and they destroyed it.

Should we trust a school board that can so casually (and for so little gain) trash the integrity of the superintendent?

The secrecy of the Finance committee was a big deal

Was the promise by Culp really that important? Watch the video of the report to the community from the Finance committee. On eight separate occasions, community members ask why the Finance meetings were closed, why there are no meeting notes available. The G4G group complained about the secrecy of the closed committees on their website (website is under revision currently) and attracted 368 community members to sign their petition to the school board.

For the people who spent hours going to the open facility meetings, attending 7 of them, the major revisions to the school facility plans, made by a closed committee, was a big deal. The fact that the board has refused to answer questions about why the Finance committee was closed is a big deal. It’s a major reason to vote no on the levy.

Do you trust Jessie Truett with $55 million?

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Use the Franklin Co. Auditor tool to find your tax increase

Published September 19, 2018 by justicewg

FC Aud calcThe school board has thrown some figures out for the increases in your taxes if the school levy in November passes. Now, you can get the exact figure, direct from the Franklin Co. Auditor website.

https://apps.franklincountyauditor.com/LevyEstimator

“The Tax Levy Estimator is an easy-to-use tool that allows Franklin County residents the ability to estimate the annual cost associated with proposed tax levies. In addition, property owners can see how their property taxes are distributed to the various political subdivisions within Franklin County.”

Tips for use – enter only your house number in the “Address No.” field.

Enter only your street name in the “Street Name “ field, no “ave” or “Blvd”.

After you hit search, scroll down to look for the results. There is no indicator inside the search box to tell you if it worked.

Scroll down to the “Grandview Heights CSD” box for the results of the Nov. levy. The total line at the bottom of the box shows the results for both the bond and the operating levies.

Don’t forget to go back up and check out the Franklin Co. box, it has tax increases from the MRDD (which passed in last fall’s election and didn’t increase taxes, it was just a renewal) and Metro parks levies that will be on the November ballot.

Good for Grandview meeting was a packed house

The Good for Grandview group had an informational meeting tonight. Word is (didn’t attend, but got reports) that levy campaign Co-Chair Katie Matney was there and acknowledged that they believe the NRI renegotiation could reduce the Levy need by 50%. And they still want you to vote for the full $55 million tax! I wonder if  Matney said “Having those feelings (of distrust in the levy) are normal and natural”.

(UPDATE) The tax levy is sure to fail now (but be sure to vote!), so maybe this isn’t so important any more, but G4G reminds us, the bond gives the school board the irrevocable authority to tax for 38 years after passage. Even if this board cut taxes as a result of the NRI deal, any future board could restore the full tax, for any reason.

Tax expiration on the Bond for the middle school gym and Glenn room.

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Board highballs the facility bid, admits finance committee is running the school

Published July 9, 2018 by justicewg

The process for updating to school buildings has been ongoing for years, and from the start, the board declared they wanted to build expensive new buildings. They are following through on that declaration, and more – the board has proposed a ridiculous highball number ($55 million) and tacked on an operating levy of one mill, just to remind parents that they can hold the school children hostage. If you are voting for this $55 million plan, you are also voting for a replacement (probably another $25 million) of the Stevenson building, because the plan under funds upgrades to the building.

The board also now has no defense from the charge that the finance committee was a policy deciding group that should have been open under the Ohio Open Meeting laws.

How highballs work in negotiations

The school board has known since the G4G group went public with opposition to the superintendent’s request for a $50 million facility plan last year that the first try at a levy would fail. There has been unprecedented opposition to the school’s attempt to manipulate the facility process, even the most optimistic on the board must have known that the $50 million plan was not going to pass. Given that fact, the board decided that a highball bid was the way to set expectations for the future.

Negotiation is all about setting the expectation for a “good number”, a price that seems normal to pay. Some ruthless negotiators find no worth in starting mid range, a high number sets the top of the range, and brings up the bottom. If the school board carefully cut into the plan as presented by Culp last year, they might have come up with a plan that cost $45 million. But the board saw that as leaving money on the table, they said, “if you are going to lose the first bid anyway, go for the big money”.

Make no mistake – this sort of hard negotiation is not normal for a Grandview Heights board. Most levies in the recent past have been in the normal range of past operating levies. Most levies pass with 60% in favor. There was one ridiculous levy attempt back in 2002 that was a big lesson for the board, and which will be used as a template for the present.

The fantasy levy of 2002

The school board of May 2002 used a similar tactic for highballing the voters, with a twist. The “incremental operating” levy asked for 9.8 mills, already a high number. They then added an additional 4 mills, to take effect the next year, and 4 more the next year. Only 35% of the voters were in favor, the biggest loser of all levies.

Nobody expected that levy to pass – but it set the expectation for the “right number” higher. That fall, the voters approved 10.7 mills, the highest millage issue in the history of the school.

The board that approved the original highball levy should have been immediately recall voted out of office, the fantasy incremental levy was an insult to the community that should have been punished. But in the minds of those board members, they saw it as a needed hardball tactic. And the approval of the fall levy was a submission by the community. We got played, and we didn’t fight it.

Stevenson replacement in the future is part of the $55 million bid

When Culp presented his initial plan for the school upgrades in September 2017, he included $6 million in refurbish work on the Stevenson building. That money was nearly zeroed out by the finance committee, they said “we are only looking at doing security and ADA upgrades at Stevenson”. If the school board under funds the maintenance of Stevenson – and nothing will stop them – that will place the closing of the building at the top of the board’s list. Shortly after the new middle school is completed, the board will come back to the voters with irrefutable evidence (because they created the problems) that Stevenson MUST be replaced. Add another $25 million to the construction costs, in the near future.

Two “no on the levy” votes will be needed

The highball bid of $55 million will not pass. But it will set the expectation high, and allow the board to come back to the voters with a $50 million plan in 2019. Cutting a few frills will be presented as painful cuts (funny how all the real pain will be suffered by the taxpayers).

There will need to be two consecutive no votes on the school’s levies before the board can be convinced to come down to a real number that will get the support of the community. This will be hard, because another, higher operation levy will be sure to be tacked onto the second bond levy. The board will threaten major cuts in after school programs, and cuts to classes that are offered. The re-implementation of activity fees will be on the table for the second vote for sure.

Unfortunately the best solution for a school board that is extorting the community – voting out the present board – will not be up for a regular vote until November 2019, when Palmisciano and Brannan can be replaced. If Truett and the other two board members elected in 2017 want to cause maximum damage to the community before they are voted out, the three of them can run the board until 2021.

The board broke the laws on open meetings Read the rest of this entry →

Culp’s G4G video response, and why it is unimportant

Published March 9, 2018 by justicewg
culp-leads-laughter

Andy Culp promotes laughing at community comments at the first public facility meeting.

There is an email circulating in Granview that is supposed to be a response from superintendent Culp to the G4G video. I’ll get back to the email, but first some straight talk about the way things work in the Grandview Heights school board, why they don’t respond to any criticism – and why they should be the ones responding to G4G.

A long history of Policy Governance

I have written often in this blog about the way the school board believes in Policy Governance. If you want a the long form story on that theory of governance, you can read the Wiki article. Here is the short version:

“The board will focus on strategic leadership rather than administrative detail; observe clear distinction between Board and CEO roles; make collective rather than individual decisions; …”

That quote was from the Columbus school board website, back when they were firmly entrenched in Policy Governance. It is as good a summary as any I have found for how the Grandview board operates.

The board treats the superintendent like a CEO of a private company. They don’t want to be bothered with hearing complaints about the daily operation of the school, they are only “big picture” focused. So you get board meetings where the super lists his recommendations, and the board complies, five votes yes. You never read challenges to the ideas the super promotes in any school board meeting.

The board is big on using ideas from business, like using a committee composed of people from private companies. This is part of the “run the government like a business” that is a mantra of the republicans.

The board almost always votes unanimously. Years pass between split votes. The theory from Policy Governance is that the board should be letting the CEO run the school, so there should be no opposition from the board. In a practical, real world application, the people who want to change school policy go to board members in private, then the board communicates with each other outside of meetings to form policy.

Another big reason the board is always unanimous – members who stake out positions in public that are not immediately accepted and become unanimous policy would be venerable to challenge in the next election. You can’t pick out individuals when the board is always a faceless collective.

The present board has another favorite method of forming school policy outside of meetings, the facility Task force and Finance committee are run by board members, and greatly control school policy, but they are closed to public attendance and meeting notes are not allowed out of the room. Culp tries to claim these meetings are not being run by the board, therefore are not part of the Open Meeting laws. He is wrong.

The board should be responding to G4G

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