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No change, no levy support

Published: Fri, October 19, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

No change, no levy support

I have voted for every school levy, no matter where I have lived in this country, no matter who has been president of the United States. That said, I now am most likely, going to vote against the Poland school levy.

Why is that? I have nothing against the teachers, community or more importantly, the children of Poland. I love my community. This decision breaks my heart. My concern is the outcome of the presidential election and the costly repercussions if Obama is re-elected. I am a hard working, responsible taxpayer, close to retirement. I have worked since I have been 15 years old, putting myself through college against the odds dealt to me. I have been through many hardships that only inspired me to succeed and help others voluntarily.

The state of our current economy is of a huge concern for me. I cannot commit to any more taxes until I know the outcome of this election. I have no confidence in the current federal administration. A change to leadership needs to take place before I vote for another school levy. I just cannot afford the financial risk.

Barbara Montgomery, Poland

Treating all with respect is key

As a member of NAMI, the Na- tional Alliance of Mentally Ill advocacy group, I recognize how important it is to integrate those who are mentally challenged into mainstream society via productive employment and other social avenues.

A person I know who is mentally challenged signed up recently to volunteer to work on the campaign at a local politician who is running for office. This person is living on disability, a fixed income. After distributing many signs and other items, (at his own expense), he was told he was a “pain” and let go. Maybe he was not quick enough. Who knows? I do know he was dealt another blow by society. As long as these antiquated attitudes prevail, the disabled can make very little progress.

A politician who is educated to run for office should be educated in other areas, matters or at least care about them, or be aware.

It’s a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best of people have always done.

Darlene Mollica, Boardman


1savarose(7 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Agree totally, gdog. This lady makes me ashamed of my hometown.

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2meagain(85 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

At least Barb signed her name. I give her credit for that. That being said it also allows you to search her home on the auditor’s website. A couple clicks reveals she lives in a home with a market value over $248,000, and it is paid off. At some point in her life she made a decent enough buck and certainly can afford to support the children of her community. If in fact she is near retirement (assuming she’s not retiring at age 50) she’ll also qualify for the homestead reduction at some point in the life of the levy. While it won’t cover the tax increase for a home worth as much as hers, it at least should make it manageable.

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3meagain(85 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

I should qualify my “paid off” comment with “if I read the auditor form correctly.” Sorry, I meant to include that.

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4UNCOMMONSENSE(523 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

I am sure that this idiot was approving her school levy when George Bush was leading the country off the cliff. Now her vote depends on whether Obabma wins or loses??

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5youngspartanrepublican(92 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Just say no! (this goes for Boardman, too) These towns have always failed levies before, and all you get is the same "Oh no, the school district is going to deteriorate, it's going to be like Youngstown." If those myths were true, then all the suburban schools would have been underachieving for the last 30-40 years. Did you liberals hear Mitt Romney's answer at the debate, good parents/stable parents steer kids in the right direction. Not somebody's property tax dollars.

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6BoardmanBranch(42 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

The issue in Poland is much bigger than political party affiliation. Money has been spent, to the tune of $11 million dollars, that taxpayers are already paying for. The statistics given by the interim superintendent are incorrect--the average salary is actually much closer to $56,000 than $44,000--significantly higher than the national average. You would think someone would check these things. The benefit structure is completely out of touch with reality. Paid pensions for administrators, low insurance copays, and a cadillac insurance plan. But they promote the levy by saying it is for the kids. How would reigning in these costs hurt the kids? Are the teachers going to find a better job elsewhere?

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7poland21(106 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

The average for a teacher in Ohio is $57,904.
The average salary for a teacher in Poland is $58,591.
The average salary in similiar districts to Poland is $58,723.

(source: ODE CUPP report 2011-12)

Teachers do not determine their pension contribution amounts, and neither does the school district. That is set at the state level and major reform just happened with state pensions including STRS. (Teachers/school districts do not determine their pension payouts either.)

Poland teachers currently pay 5% toward health insurance premiums, and next year will pay 10% because that is what the new insurance consortium has established.

Poland teachers took a 2 year wage freeze AND a 2 year STEP freeze. That is above and beyond any other district in Ohio.

I wonder what you will complain about after 7/1/15 when many educators across the state of Ohio have retired and are replaced with first year teachers. Yes, the salaries will be down but the experience will be gone too. The new teachers will do well, but just like any job, there is a learning curve and the Poland schools will have many new educators....

BTW, if I remember right, you are not a fan of Dr Zorn? Well, he is gone, so does that at least count for something?

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8BoardmanBranch(42 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Your statistics may be correct, but the statistics released at the public forum by the interim superintendent were identified the average Poland teacher salary as $44,000. That should have been checked and verified. It makes one wonder if this was intentional, an attempt to deceive the taxpayer.

I know that teachers don't determine their pension contributions, but the administration does determine if they will do a pension pick up for administrators. Don't ask me to vote for a levy so some people don't have to pay once cent toward their pension.

The 10% teachers will pay toward their insurance is long overdue, and frankly, not enough because their plan is too rich for the taxpayer to sustain.

Do I want to push out experienced teachers? Of course not. But when the district is in debt $11 million, they have to be willing to share the burden. I know they've taken a pay freeze, but II think if you look at the numbers you will see that that teachers move up the salary scale to quickly and the percent of increase between the steps is significant. Something has to be done. The taxpayer can't pick up the entire bill.

As for Doctor Zorn--he has been made a scapegoat. Members of past boards should be ashamed of themselves--what were they doing? At least this board is trying.

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9BoardmanBranch(42 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Just one more thing--you will notice that even with a two year wage and step freeze, the average teacher salary in Poland is still higher than the state average. And, even with a two year freeze, they are less than $150/year below the average for teachers in comparable districts. That is very telling.

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10poland21(106 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

The interim superintendent was on the job only two months before that forum. He definately mispoke but I am pretty sure it was not intentional. In the last year he was at 2 other districts - I would guess it all starts to blend together.

The salary info only reflects one year of wage and step freezes, so the next CUPP report will have the gap. Meaning that now our teacher average is less than the state and similiar districts because they certainly did not have step freezes.

The insurance premium responsibility was left at 5% in the last contract because SB5 was fully in play at the time. I think the bump from 5-10% allowed for $160k in savings, or something like that. If only the Magic 8 Ball had predicted that SB5 would be on the ballot and overturned....

So if the Administrators paid their portion of retirement contribution, you would support the schools? I am not sure how much this would be, but it would only be around 10-15 staff, so I would estimate the savings would be less than $150k.

If those two things had been implemented would amount to less than $300k a year. I am certainly not knocking that savings, but the district is operating at a $1.5m deficit right now. So there would still be a levy and it would be for nearly the same amount.

I personally do not blame Dr Zorn for anything. Nor do I blame the BOE. You seem to just blame the teachers....

I really think that the bigger point is that Poland is NO different than nearly any other district in Ohio, and it is a shame that you can't see that.

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11BoardmanBranch(42 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Do you really think that other school districts have not have not had wage freezes? Let's see what the difference is in another year. The piece that is missing in your argument is the percent of increase between the steps, and the amount the scale goes up every year. These percents are very high in the Poland schools. Bear in mind that teachers have averaged a 5-7% raise each year. And if you want to see the math I will show you.

I do not blame the teachers. The board has oversight responsibility. Instead of allowing the school district to get $11 million in debt, they should have stopped the use of lease-purchase agreements. The taxpayer had no input into this. Up to this point, the teachers have enjoyed steady, significant raises each year and they have paid practically nothing for insurance most people have not seen in 10 years. This is not their fault. But it's not the taxpayer's fault either. More has to be done on their part, and the taxpayer will have to give some, too. Bear in mind that we owe more than $700,000/year in principal and interest. Combine that with the mere $300,000 that could have been saved all along and the you see that you're close to $1 million a year. It's a much different levy.

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12meagain(85 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago


I left your friend RealTruth the same message and in fact you may get it again in the future.

The reality is you just don’t get it. You know what? That’s okay. Anyone can find fault in anything when they apply hindsight and use an isolationist analysis. When you look at any details away from the bigger picture you can find flaws with even the most perfect situations. You’re detail people. I get it. That’s fine. Failing to see those details as a part of their whole is what you detail people do. We need detail people in the world. Sure lease purchase agreements, benefits, salaries and the stadium when looked at away from the bigger picture and with the benefit of hindsight all could be pointed to as creating this emergency. Some of us are detail people and some of us are bigger picture people. I for one am glad the world has both. Both groups working together is how problems get solved. Once again I urge you to get involved. Bring your voice to the table. Share your points. Show up at a board meeting and point out all of your objections and ideas. Present alternatives. Hell, run for school board. Clearly things need to change. Funding in Ohio isn’t working. As proof just take note that a historic number of ballots will have a school levy this November. There are bound to be more articles regarding this levy as Election Day approaches. Of one thing I am certain. Eventually this levy will pass. They all do. But what will it cost and what will we lose along the way?

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13BoardmanBranch(42 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

I am suggesting alternatives. You just don't like what they are. Your answer is for the taxpayer to keep paying while the employee portion of pensions for administrators is paid; while teachers continue to pay 5% of a deluxe insurance package until 2014; while teachers have salary freezes for two years when most people in the public and private sector haven't had raises in 5 years or more. There are solutions that could reign in the cost of the levy, and the burden on the taxpayer. Probably not what you had in mind?

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14meagain(85 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

You don’t read very well. I never said those issues can’t be a part of the solution. I’ve maintained they can’t be the ONLY solution. It is tiresome to hear the same people fixate on the same thing giving the impression that it alone would solve all the ills. I’m asking everyone to be part of fixing the whole problem not just one piece.

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15BoardmanBranch(42 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

When will they be part of the solution? After the levy passes? Not likely.

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16poland21(106 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

BoardmanBranch, you can't keep harping on the $700k loan payment for that funded the stadium and MULTIPLE other infrastructure upgrades at ALL the schools. That ship sailed nearly A DECADE ago when those plans were put in place and now the loan needs paid off. So there IS NO $700k savings from that.

A health insurance co-pay increase to 10% may save $160k per year. The Administrative pension contribution may save $150k per year (these are my numbers not the BOE). So we are short $1.5m after all the previous cuts, wage freezes and Step freezes, but could be short $1.3m. I am guessing that would knock the cost per $100,000 home value down a few bucks. Feel better now?

Passage of this levy keeps the district afloat. There is already a $300k funding loss for the next school year and no one knows what Ohio is going to do with their funding. Passage of this levy does not bring the district back to the glory days and it will not allow for the restoration of eveything. So, my opinion is that the BOE does need to continue to look at options for spending reductions. Your suggestions are very valid and I think should absolutely be considered - they could offset the loss of the $300k. But, your reasons are not justification to fail the levy.

And BTW, I am not aware of a single other district in Mahoning or Trumbull county where the teachers accepted STEP FREEZES. Yes, most districts took wage freezes, but Poland Teachers took it one step further and affectively reduced their salaries for the remainder of the career.

Please, take a few minutes and look at this from a long term prospective. Passing the levy puts us on the track to a recovery plan.

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17BoardmanBranch(42 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

I am not talking about the $700,000 for the stadium. I am talking about $10.3 million the taxpayer is on the hook for, debt that was incurred without any taxpayer input. Given these circumstances, the cuts have be made before going to the taxpayer. This is a question of trust--I am willing to pay my share but not until all possible cuts have been made. They have not. I want to look at this from a long term perspective. Will the administration and teachers do the same?

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18poland21(106 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Real Truth, give me a break.

#1 You know that a non-permanent levy in Ohio is named an "emergency levy". State legal term, not the school's.

#2 School enrollment is down 166 kids since 1995-6. Not my numbers, the state's: http://ode.legislature.state.oh.us/ch...

#3 I never said that the loan was taken out a decade ago. I said that the PLAN for the stadium and other infrastucture upgrades was in place a decade ago. The stadium was the last phase of a FOUR PHASE plan. The stadium was completely renovated and open for the 2008 football season. I have no idea when Phase 1 of the plan kicked off, but I am guessing it was at least a few years before 2008. (Otherwise known as "nearly a decade ago".)

#4 You are correct that this new levy will come up as a renewal in 5 years. In real life, the trend in Operating expenses is generally up, and the State of Ohio has decided that Poland residents have to pay most of those operating expenses.

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19poland21(106 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

olddude - teacher pension packages have nothing to do with the Poland Local School district. The State Pension funds (including STRS) determine what the contribution are for both the employer and employee and also what the benefits are.

Again, repeat after me "Poland Schools have Nothing To Do With Teacher Pensions".

The teachers have taken wage freezes. They have taken step freezes. The elementary teachers are doing their jobs plus the jobs that used to be done by the art teacher, gym teacher, music teacher, and tutors. And there are no "double dipping employees" that I know of.

Wake up and support your schools.

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20poland21(106 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Boardman Branch, I can't speak for how it was done in the past, but lease-purchase agreements come up at school board meetings now. So at least now there is opportunity for public comment.

I would say that there is room for improvement in this proccess - It would be great if the agreement was discussed at a prior meeting or work group with public comment, and then voted on at a later meeting... but I already see process changes in the BOE and hopefully this will be one too. And really big things should cover a few meetings!

That said, I just don't understand punishing the current students for the actions of past board members. How many of the current ones were even there when those original loans were approved? I am sure that 3 out of 5 weren't, and I am not sure about the 4th.

At this point, all we can do is get the district financially sound and make a better plan to move ahead.

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