May 4, the Hopewell-Loudon School District again will be putting its new facility levy on the ballot. Why would the issue be back on the ballot after its defeat last November? Simply stated, $13.5 million is just too difficult to give up without a good fight.
You see, this is realistically the district's last shot, without a special election, at slightly less than 50 percent co-pay from the state of Ohio on a brand-new building for its students before the state passes it on to another district. What a shame it would be to lose out on such a great opportunity! More importantly, however, is what it would mean to the residents of the district.
As difficult of a pill as it may be to swallow, we all are going to pay one way or another. While we long have enjoyed the benefits of some of the highest property values in Seneca County along with some of the lowest tax rates, reality eventually sets in, and in this case the reality is an aging facility that no longer meets the needs of the students or state standards.
So how do we improve our situation? We invest in a new facility using the state co-funding, or we repair our 70-year-old building. In either case, we are going to pay. Everyone is going to pay. I wish I didn't have to be so blunt and direct, but until the state of Ohio comes up with an alternative and equitable method to fund public schools, we all still are on the hook. The only way you will not pay is to move out of the district, and many of our neighboring districts are paying for their own new facilities.
Now, I don't enjoy paying anymore than the next person, but I have never had a problem parting with a couple of dollars a day for a just cause, and most people do realize that continuing to vote down levies will not eliminate the need nor does it mean you never will have to pay anything. Hopewell-Loudon either will build a new facility or repair its existing building. We have to in order to ensure the future of the district.
Recent state-level discussions have suggested Ohio consider eliminating one-third of the public school districts through consolidation in order to help bring the state back to prosperity. Our school system possibly could be shut down and the district divided up among neighboring districts that already have had the foresight to reinvest in their own schools. We must invest in our school now.
This is where the levy starts being about you. How do you want your money being spent? That's what this essentially becomes all about. If you're like me, you prefer the route where the costs are predictable, where you can lock in on low construction bids, take the state money, build an up-to-date, state-of-the-art facility that will require little if any major maintenance for years, and you know exactly what you're going to pay. Hopefully, we can begin this process May 4.
What would happen with a defeat of the levy in May? The issue most likely would go right back on the ballot again in November or next May, only this time it would be a repair levy, probably the first of several, without state money, all on our own dime, and it will pass. It will pass because although the community seems to be divided at this time between those who favor investing in half of a new building and those who favor paying for major repairs of the old building on our own, the combined support of the two groups certainly would result in more than enough votes to pass a levy. We then would be taken down the long, drawn out, costly and, more importantly, unpredictable repair road with no turning back and no idea what lies ahead. You see, when you're dealing with pre-World War II support structures, modular classrooms and asbestos removal, repairing our existing facility is like a box of chocolates you never know what you're going to get. The bottom line is something is going to get done, one way or another.
May 4 now becomes not about deciding whether we do something or do nothing, it becomes about you having the opportunity to decide how your money is going to be spent. Over the next couple of years, the last of my children will be completing their journey through our fine school system and I will join the ranks of those who either have never sent children to Hopewell-Loudon or no longer have children in the system. But through the many fine younger families I have had the pleasure to get to know during my own involvement with the school, I'm sure I will marvel at the unlimited new opportunities a new facility will provide for their children and also take a great sense of pride in knowing I helped make it possible. I would wish the same for any district.
Please, get the facts and weigh the costs and disruption to education involved with extensive repairs of an occupied building versus building new with state help. Tour the existing building. Take the opportunity to visit Tiffin Middle School or Seneca East, both new facilities designed by the architects who are working with Hopewell-Loudon. Go to the Web site - www.hl70more.com - read the information, look at the pictures and calculate what your cost will be. Call the school or a board member with your questions. Be an informed voter and do what's right for yourself and the district.