B-C-S levy campaign: Coffee, Facebook and public meetings

Larry Limpf

July 25 looks to be a busy day for the administration of the Benton-Carroll-Salem School District.
An informal get-together with district residents over coffee is scheduled for 10 a.m. at Blackberry Corners and a live session on the district’s Facebook page will start at 5:30 p.m.
A public meeting at 6:15 p.m. at The Hub in the high school building will complete the events being held to answer questions about a 3.9-mill, 5-year property tax levy on the Aug. 6 ballot.
“One long day of communication,” said Guy Parmigian, district superintendent. “But people can call us anytime or email if they have questions. We just want to make sure people have the information.”
If passed, the levy will generate about $1.5 million annually for the district’s operating expenses.
If the levy doesn’t pass, the administration will implement spending cuts and fee increases that have already been approved by the board of education, including the elimination of bus service for students in grades nine through 12 and no busing for students who live within two mile of their schools.
Parmigian said the prospect of losing busing service has been particularly frustrating for parents who’ve taken the time to attend previous coffee sessions with him or contacted him via social media.
They’ve also lamented the potential loss of the Acorn Alley child care program, he said. Parents pay for the program but the district funds administration expenses and overhead costing about $4,500 a year.
“We understand the loss of busing is going to be a hardship. My answer to people when they say they don’t like losing services is we have tried to avoid this situation for over two years by being on the ballot three times,” Parmigian said. “Three times the income tax failed and the property tax levy passed last year, which we were thankful for, but we needed both. So when people get upset I say I understand but we’ve also worked desperately hard to avoid the situation we’re in today.”
The school board last month opted not to fill the position of director of administrative services when Keith Thorbahn resigned to take another position, Parmigian said, which will result in an annual savings of about $144,000 including salary and benefits.
The future of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station weighs heavily on the district. The tax devaluation of the station property has resulted in the B-C-S system losing about $6 million – roughly a third of the district’s operating budget.
Without a lifeline from the state, FirstEnergy Solutions, the station’s owner, has announced it will close Davis-Besse and a nuclear plant in Perry, Ohio.
Even if the state legislature comes up with a lifeline, the devaluation of Davis-Besse has taken its toll on the school district, Parmigian said.
“We need the August 6 levy no matter what due to the devaluation,” he said. “If the state doesn’t provide Davis-Besse any help, we’re going to be in more trouble. We don’t know exactly what it could look like if they do close. We know there will still be some value to the property there but we anticipate some reduction. On top of that there will be some loss of students and a loss to the tax base across the district. That’s happened in other communities where nuclear plants have closed.”



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