The City Levy and the School Levy - someone recently asked me what I stood for, I think he was really asking me how I intended to vote
The reasons are:
1. It is in my own best financial interest
2. My conservative friends let me down when they didn't run anyone for school board.
3. I believe Mrs. Gunnell, the School Superintendent is a great administrator.
4. As Mayor I should consider voting for Issue 19. But voting yes on 19 without voting yes on 2 would prove that running a deceptive campaign, like the one encouraged by the city, works; while acting responsibly, like the school system has this past year, does not work.
The order I picked for listing the reasons has more to do with my personality than any thing else. I put the first item first because I tend to put what I am most likely to be criticized about first. Go ahead and say it, "Oh, he just wants you to vote yes on Issue 2 because his kids play on four different teams". I'll state here that the money doesn't effect my voting decision at all. In fact, when I was voting against the levy, one of the reasons I donated to the JROTC was to make sure that my vote was because I knew the school board could be making better decisions. I wanted to make sure that it wasn't just to save a couple hundred dollars.
Last year I stopped voting against the school levy because my conservative friends didn't step up to try to make sure there was at least one person on the board specifically there to look out for us financially. A City needs a good school system and I fully believed that under the previous School Superintendent we could have gotten a much better school system a lot cheaper if we had a fiscally responsible school board. But no fiscal conservatives stepped up to do the work. Cutting, cutting, cutting without appropriate guidance only leads to anarchy. The State cut, cut, cut and neither the State nor my conservative friends stepped up to give guidance. So I stopped voting against the levy. Fortunately for Huber Heights City Schools the school board was smart enough to hire Mrs. Gunnell as school superintendent.
The past few years Mrs. Gunnell has worked tirelessly to lean out the school and protect residents and students from the disastrous results that would occur if the State had taken over management of the School System. I believe she has the ability and energy to make the Huber Heights City School system one of the best in the area. This will result in a better education for our kids and school reputation that helps bring in families with high income potential to the city. I'm almost to the point where I'm ready to give her back the resources she would have had if not for the bad economy to see if she is as good a manager with normal resources as she has been with a shoestring budget.
This leads into item 4. I see the school system's approach to passing the levy as one in which they are inviting residents to look at their record and make an appropriate decision. On the Huber Heights City School's website they publish a 5 year budget projection so you can see that they are planning ahead. They publish what they spend monthly. If you look you can see that in 2014 expenditures are expected to be $56 million which is $9 million less than the $65 million they spent in 2012. From memory, in 2010 and 2011 they had spent closer to $68 million. I can remember being frustrated a few years ago when School officials would tell us that they were cutting 3 to 5 million dollars from the budget but the total expenditures were going up. Now we know that the school is spending less money now than they did in 2010.
Look at some of the other fiscal progress. Back in 2010 we were spending more money per student than cities like Centerville and Kettering. Now Huber Heights City Schools spends about $8700 per student while Centerville and Kettering spend about $10,000 per student. Over the last four years base pay for teachers has not increased. All HHCS staff members have taken reductions in pay.
Finally, the School system has gone out and found real professionals to help improve the school system and is in the middle of developing a long term plan for improving instruction and finances. This Warrior Pride Strategic Planning has more than a hundred residents providing input on how to improve Community Engagement, School Climate, Financial Stability and Staff Engagement. This work will continue no matter what the outcome of the election and has the real potential to provide useful input on how to improve the school system.
Mrs. Gunnell's leadership in producing real fiscal change, work in developing an executable plan and willingness to let that good work speak for itself, goes a long way in making me believe that it might be time to give her a real opportunity to make a difference.
Contrast this to the City approach which relies on slogans such as Open, Honest and Transparent as well as Facts that are designed to deceive. My father taught me when I was much younger that honest people don't go around saying trust me, those without secrets don't have to say they're open and smart people never have to say they're smart.
This past week City officials have begun to beg people to read the ballot language so that they can see that the money from the levy will only go to paying for Police and Fire services. It's hard to believe City officials think there are more people gullible enough to fall for that than there are that would be insulted at the attempt to deceive. Everyone in the city knows that the specific new money raised by this levy will go to police and fire. Almost everyone knows that this will make it so that council can spend more money on things like the Aquatic and Music Centers.
The reason why the deception is so dangerous is because by allowing council to continue the deception the strongest supporters of Police and Fire services are making it more likely we will lose some police and firefighters in the near future. The key thing to remember is that even if this levy passes, a lot of money comes out of the General fund to pay for police and fire. If we made council be honest then we would be pressing Council to commit to not spending more than what this levy frees up on things like running the Aquatic and Music Centers. By allowing them to pretend that this levy only effects police and fire funds then it allows them to spend more out of the General Fund. If they spend too much out of the General Fund then they will still have to cut Police and Firefighters in order to get a balanced budget.
You can read the ballot language all you want but if council spends too much of the money from the General Fund to operate the Music Center then they will have to take it from somewhere, according to this council that somewhere has to be the General Fund money we use to pay for Police and Fire services. In more blunt language, you can vote for this levy but because you allowed council to use deceptive tactics to get it passed, it really doesn't do much to prevent future cuts to police and fire services.
Getting back to the 4th point, I am the Mayor and I should be considering voting for Issue 19. One of the reasons I am considering voting for this Issue is because we have been using a lot of our reserve funds in order to balance the budget. One of the methods of reducing the stress on the reserve funds is to raise more revenue through a levy. However, one of my greatest political ambitions is responsible government. Fundamental elements of responsible government are open, honest and transparent communications between government officials and the public. The School Administration has demonstrated these characteristics by their actions. The City is trying to claim these characteristics despite its actions. The road to responsible government becomes longer and harder if the deceptive campaign works while the campaign base on commitment and hard work fails. So it would be impossible for me to vote yes on the City Levy unless I also voted yes on School levy.
I've not decided yet how I will vote on either Issue 2, the school levy or Issue 19 the city levy. On the city levy, I realize we are cutting into the reserves of the General Fund. As a fiscal conservative I like having reserves. I had been sitting at probably a 25% chance of voting yes but that moved up to 40 to 50% after the last Administration Committee meeting. The last Administration Committee meeting gave me hope. But then the city doubled down on promoting their deception by pretending that reading the ballot language would help people understand the issue. Realizing that despite my efforts, this council has no commitment to achieving good government through open, honest and transparent communication and no respect for the intelligence of the average resident was exceptionally disheartening. Now there is probably about a 20% chance of the City levy getting my vote.
On the other hand, I really believe in Mrs. Gunnell and I believe she deserves an opportunity to see just how good she can make the schools. I also am impressed with her commitment to responsible government. I'd rate the likelihood of my voting for the school levy as 75%.