By KIM LOCCISANO
Times Leader Staff Writer
DILLONVALE - The Buckeye Local School District Board of Education handled a host of issues at its recent meeting.
Among the items addressed were the adoption of a contract with a different company for food service than had been used in the previous school year; preliminary results from the Ohio Achievement Assessment tests; the rejection of a bid by Michael R. McCain, of $60,000 for the property at 680 Hill St., Rayland; and a resolution to put a new and continuing permanent improvement levy on the fall ballot.
Assistant Superintendent Angela Hicks reported the results of the district's OAA testing for lower grades as all showing strong results.
"We are excited to announce we have met all six indicators in reading. Last year we did not meet that for the fifth grade, and this year it improved significantly. This is the first time we have met all six indicators for the OAA, so we are very, very excited. We feel everybody is working together as a team to continue to increase these scores," shared Hicks. "We met five of the six indicators, and although we did not pass the fifth grade math, it did increase nearly seven percent. So we feel our plan is working and we will continue to work together on it."
"I want to thank publicly the teachers who work day in and day out with these students. Anyone who works directly with our students, we want to thank you, because this would not be possible without a true team effort," said Hicks.
"If that doesn't change - as these are preliminary results - that would mean we got all five of the high school indicators this year; we got all the reading and almost all the math. So we're moving in the right direction," said Superintendent of Schools Mark Miller.
On another matter, board members took a first step in the direction of placing an issue on the ballot for the November election that would ask voter approval for a new permanent improvement levy.
Longtime board member Joe Zelek stood firmly against asking voters to pass anything that would activate a new tax, saying he preferred to wait and see if anticipated gas and oil lease monies are ultimately received.
"I think it's unfair to try to burden the taxpayers with more taxes at this time - a time when we are anticipating the oil and gas leases to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties. It makes it look like we're trying to hurry up and get some taxes on the books before we get the other money. I think we should let that play out a little bit more," said Zelek.
Another veteran member of the board, Naoma Kolkedy noted the district does not have a confirmation on realizing those funds yet.
"If we don't get that lease money, then what are we going to do?" she said.
"We ought to just wait and let that play out. It's definitely hundreds of thousands of dollars. Potentially it could be millions over the years, so I think we owe it to the taxpayers to let that play out before we go ahead and try to burden them with more taxes," stated Zelek.
"If they don't agree they will vote against it, and we won't burden anybody. We need the money. Even if we do get it, we only get it for one time," she said.
"Not necessarily," said Zelek. "It's possible that over time the royalties could amount to millions."
"You've still got that big word - if," said Kolkedy.
"We feel fairly sure there will be hundreds of thousands of dollars coming in July, from everything we've been told," said Zelek. "We had it all in on time. And all the surrounding districts realized gains like this."
"Being a permanent improvement levy, it would raise money for the three Bs: buildings, buses and books," said Board of Education President Chuck Haggerty.
"At the high school, there is one part of the front separating from the building, and it's ready to fall off. That's the newest building we have. If it was a situation where we were looking for increases in salaries and that kind of thing, I agree. I think we would have a hard time selling it. It's always a difficult decision to come to as to whether or not to put a levy on," said Haggerty.
"I think what we are saying is that we would like to have an idea about a set amount of money we could have per year that we could focus towards making our buildings more up-to-date and safer for our kids. That's the way I am looking at it," Haggerty said.
"Putting it on the ballot, it's basically telling taxpayers we have this need, and it's your decision whether or not it passes," he offered. "I think we've shown a good faith effort in trying to find as many ways to save money in the district, and to put money toward the proper things in the district. But there's only so much you can get out of it in terms of ways to save money. We continue to find ways to save money, but it's not touching what needs to be done with the buildings."
"As Mr. Zelek has said, we have had to make some very difficult decisions, not that we wanted to but we had to keep Buckeye Local from getting put into fiscal emergency or something like that. We're just working with what we've got, and this is trying to give us a little bit more," said Kolkedy.
"We're one of the few districts around here that's not on the verge of the state walking in here, but we have to stay proactive I think to keep that progress," said Haggerty. "We'll let the voters have the final word."
Kolkedy made the motion to adopt a resolution declaring, "intent to proceed with election on the question of an additional tax in excess of the 10-mil limitation."
Boardmember Brad McFadden seconded the motion. The board will now proceed with discussion of the levy at upcoming meetings.
The next regular meeting of the Buckeye Local School District Board of Education will be held Aug. 6 at 6 p.m., at the administrative offices in Dillonvale.
Loccisano may be reached at email@example.com