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South Point starts talking about levy

SOUTH POINT – Only half of the 15 people who attended the South Point Board of Education special meeting Thursday raised their hands when asked if they would support additional property taxes for the construction of new schools.

Friday, August 13, 1999

SOUTH POINT – Only half of the 15 people who attended the South Point Board of Education special meeting Thursday raised their hands when asked if they would support additional property taxes for the construction of new schools.

The others wanted to know one thing before making their decision – how much will the project cost.

But that question could not be answered yet, said Rick Waggoner, school superintendent.

Although school officials know the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission has approved $23.4 million in state building assistance funds if area residents pass a property tax levy to raise $7.1 million in local funding for the construction of a new high school and consolidated elementary and the renovation of the current high school for a middle school, the exact millage needed is not yet known, Waggoner said.

"Our goal is to tell everybody all the information as we get it," he said. "We want to keep everything above board. And once this is certified by the county auditor’s office, he will give us a millage and then we can present the cost to the people."

An undecided resident, Michael Lynd said these public meetings are the best way to present information to voters so they can make their own decision.

"I’m just concerned about things," Lynd said. "Taxpayers have a lot of concerns. We’re still paying on a school we just built in 1983. I think a lot of people have questions and I think these meetings will help answer them."

District voters approved an 8-mill levy in 1981 to build a new high school. But even that school is in need of improvements, Waggoner said.

"It needs $3.6 million in renovations," he said. "The building is 20 years old and a heating and air-conditioning system is only expected to last 15 years. It’s just like a car. Once you get 60,000, 70,000 or 80,000 miles on it, things are going to start going wrong. It needs new plumbing, roofs, loose furnishings "

Head custodian at South Point High School, Mary Patrick knows the school’s problems inside and out.

And, even though her children have graduated, she will be voting yes to the levy.

"We have to do something for the children," Mrs. Patrick said. "They need building space for technology and science. I don’t want our children to be left behind."

South Point is the last county school district to receive the opportunity to build new schools.

And if the voters pass up this chance, they might not get another one, said Harold Shafer, county superintendent.

"You have to think about the kids 20 years from now," Shafer said. "When you have old buildings, the expenses of keeping it up are more and more and more. And the board has done a super job keeping up with these buildings."

That doesn’t mean the district can afford to wait for the next offer of funding from the state, Shafer said.

"You won’t get another opportunity for this. You probably won’t get it again for at least 20 years. There are 620 districts on the state’s equity list. And if you turn it down, they’ll go to each of those 620 districts before they come back to you. We’ve got to take advantage of this while it is here."

And the cost to area residents should not be that much, Waggoner said.

Although the old 8-mill levy is still on the books, board members have decreased it to 0.5-mill over the years, he said.

The school board plans at least three more public meetings about the school building project to answer any questions.

Anyone with concerns about the proposed levy is encouraged to call Waggoner at the board office at 377- 4315, he said.

"We have eight to nine weeks after school starts to disseminate the information," Waggoner said. "We will send letters out to every parent and put notices in the paper. We want to generate public intelligence about this. And once we do, how they vote is their opinion.

"I’d like to convince everyone to vote yes, but I know not everybody out there will vote yes. But not everybody will vote no either."