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OUR READERS WRITE...

November 7, 2011
Salem News

Salem council member reacts

To the editor: I can understand Ms. Weaver's opinion regarding motives behind the performance audit better after reading the confidential memo she made public. However, she continues to smear and mischaracterize intentions and motives with her recent letter. I say smear because by mere association with Dave Johnson she taints John Berlin's, Brian Whitehill's and my motives behind our support of the performance audit. I can tell you that none of us would want to dismantle the fire department or outsource police protection, but she continues to bring it up in order to effect a political outcome. Ms. Weaver is engaging in the lowest form of political manipulation.

The fight is between Ms. Weaver and Mr. Johnson. Her decisions and actions on council should be guided solely by facts and objectivity, and not by an emotional reaction to one person's opinions and statements. Just because she disagrees or has a negative opinion of Mr. Johnson, she shouldn't associate his motives to others just because they are in the same party or are friends with him. Her continued discussion of this as we approach Election Day leads one to question her motives. Of course that is just my opinion. I don't want to be spending more time on this, and I dislike this method of public discourse, but I feel compelled to respond to defend my position. Ms. Weaver chose to start a smear campaign since she made her statements from her seat as council president during a council meeting. I have worked on council to be objective throughout my term but have had to constantly fight this emotional battle over fire district issues that occurred before I even moved here. I have no inclination to fight for, or against the fire department as I have never seen any hard data that convinces me that converting to a fire district would be a cost savings while maintaining an appropriate level of service. And yet, my time on council, my efforts with economic development, my pushing to improve planning in administration and my hours away from family are reduced to this mischaracterization of my motives because Mickey is peeved at Dave. What a waste of time and how unfortunate for our city to have a sitting council president engaging in political innuendo against fellow councilmen during an election season. Let's end this and focus on the city's business instead.

DAVE NESTIC, Salem City Council member, Salem

Ask United voters to support bond issue

To the editor: We write to encourage our fellow citizens in the United School district to vote yes for United's future and support the 3.92 bond issue this coming election. We were asked to serve on a Financial Task Force to review the financial status of United Schools and determine if United can continue to meet its obligations if a new bond issue is passed. We met on four occasions at United and Mrs. Rinto (United superintendent) and Mrs. Davies (United treasurer) provided us access to statements, budgets, five-year plans, and answered any questions asked. We had complete access to all financial records. Mr. Ron Victor, president of Leadership Ideas from Willoughby, Ohio, assisted us with our meetings and we were able to draw upon his wide level of experiences in public education. We also met with representatives of the Ohio School Facilities Commission and Buehler Architecture, who will design the new facilities. And we met with Stifel Nicolas and Co. to review the process in choosing the best option for a facilities improvement plan. We questioned what savings could be appreciated by passage of this issue such as energy efficiencies and less maintenance of newer, state of the art facilities. We reviewed the concerns regarding renovation and the building of new wings. We realize United has become very desirable for out of district students via open enrollment and believe a newly renovated facility would continue to strengthen open enrollment at United. Without passage of this bond issue United will face a future with large amounts of money needed for upkeep and renovation. Probably as much as is currently being requested to renovate and build new wings for our future educational needs. Much talk of consolidation has been bandied about as an option for United. I'm sure most residents don't want to lose the United School District to consolidation. But with an old obsolete school at United and newer modern schools elsewhere we would be the school pushed to consolidate to a newer facility. The best way to determine if United can meet its future obligations is by reviewing processes of governance. The annual line item budget recommendations and management goals and objectives is a successful blue print for continuing fiscal responsibility. This process has guided United school boards for many years and the results have been very successful with no strikes, strife, or turmoil. A school rated excellent by the state!

We realize some very tough decisions have been made by the board and staff, such as co-pays for benefits by teachers and staff. We believe this board and future boards, staff and teachers will continue to be fiscally responsible and dedicated to what is best for the students at United Local Schools. The taxes for this district are very reasonable for our size. Not the highest or the lowest but close to the middle. Even with passage of the bond issue our taxes will still be very reasonable when compared to the other districts in our county. We believe a newly renovated, state of the art school is needed and will attract people to our community who want to raise a family in the best school district in Columbiana County. This will help keep property values from declining. But best of all is the deal to raise almost $9 million via this bond issue to get a $39 million school subsidized by tobacco lawsuit funds from the state of Ohio. One comment heard at a meeting was, "Would you buy $9 million worth of lottery tickets if you knew you would win $39 million?" Our committee representing many business owners in our district agrees with the board that this is a legitimate request to modernize United schools with efficient infrastructure and facilities designed to educate in an ever changing world. This is an important vote for our school, our children and grandchildren, our community, our future and our quality of life. We strongly encourage the support of our board of education and the passage of this 3.92 bond issue in November.

LUCIAN CLEWELL, Electronics 123.com Inc.

PETER C. JOHNSON JR., Architectural Ceramic Products/Summitville Tiles

SUSAN KIEWALL, Kiewall Florists

BARB KUDOR, KOA Campgrounds/Stone Ridge Terrace

JEREMY MINOR, Minor Insurance

KARL STOUDT, retired businessman

United School

Financial Task Force

Is new school project really needed now?

To the editor: Voters of United School District, Well, it's almost time to vote on the new school project. We have been given the opportunity to learn the facts on the bond issue. I hope you took advantage of them. Are you ready to put this district into more debt for the next three and a half decades? This means you and your children, possibly your grandchildren, will be paying for this new school. It just doesn't seem right to me. Are you convinced that our present school building has no value anymore? We will destroy the old parts. That means we will not recover any value. None. Even when you trade in a car or a home, you expect to recover some value from the old.

Have you considered the extra millions of dollars that will be taken out of this district's taxpayers for the next 37 years over what we pay today? What about the future needs of the fire departments, law enforcement, and townships for their road maintenance and repairs? There's only so many tax dollars to go around. Will there be enough money for them, or will it all be spent in payments on a new school building? Think this decision through. Think about the future as you go to vote. A new school would be nice right now, but is it what needs to be done today? We have been told this is a good deal. A good deal does not have to be sold to the voters. A good deal will sell itself. Would I buy a new car if someone offered to pay 79 percent of the cost? Not if my old car still ran and I had to make payments on the new one for the next 37 years. Is it still a good deal? We will soon know. The levy supporters will be voting. Will you?

GERALD WALKER, Hanoverton

Buildings don't provide education to students

To the editor: I have been reading the letters to the editor about the United bond issue on the ballot. From what I have read it is clear that the supporters only want you to look at the positive side of the issue (a new building). Those against the levy have pointed out their concerns for the cost and timing of the bond issue.

The way I see it, a new building is only new for a short time and then you are taking care of an aging building once again. What does that mean for the voters, probably another levy to fix the new building before we finish paying for it or to help operate the new building (like Leetonia is thinking about doing). How about new construction, does it mean high quality and long lasting? No, not really, just look at the new schools around us. Most, if not all of the new schools have had issues that require changes or repairs at local taxpayers' expense. Also the new building construction is under rules set by the Ohio Schools Facility Commissions control until it meets their requirements. So the building could take years before it belongs to us. Has the United building seen a lot of students over the years? Of course it has, but that hardly means the building is worn out. I for one got my education from a person and we seem to have good people, since we have one of the highest academic ratings in the county. In the end a new building will not teach a single student.

JASON HOWELL, Lisbon

Bond levy passage will enrich future students

To the editor: United School District voters have the opportunity on Nov. 8 to enrich the future for students. Since Ohio public schools are funded by property owners (and have been since the 1800's), as long as school districts exist, property owners will be paying taxes for their operation. So what does that mean for the next, say, 50 years? The Ohio Schools Facilities Commission is offering to pay 79 percent of new construction at United (with our local share 21 percent) for a total of $39.4 million. The OSFC's expectation is the new school would last a minimum of 50 years. The 3.92 mill bond issue would pay our local share of $9.75 million. To make the bond issue affordable, it's for 37 years to ease the burden on property owners. To those who say 37 years is too long, consider this. What do you anticipate the school's costs will be over the next 37 years if we don't take advantage of the OSFC project? The board of education listed known repairs/replacements for the next 10 years, including roofs and windows. Those repairs are estimated at $3.9 million (not including any technology upgrading). As a bond issue, it would be 3.81 mills for 10 years. That's just the first 10 years (to 2021). For the ensuing years (2022 through 2048), how much do you think will be spent on repairs, replacements, furnishings, and technology? Do you think it might be more than $6 million? Do you think that by 2048, we might be spending more and more on our 97-year-old building? And what costs will be incurred from 2048 to 2061? Doesn't it stand to reason that there will be less maintenance/repair issues with a 50-year-old building versus a building that's 110 years old? And one other point, since we first were offered to participate in an OSFC project 12 years ago, construction costs have risen 43 percent-what do you think construction costs will do over the next 37 years? To those who say, just re-build the elementary, the OSFC's projected cost for a new updated elementary is $15 million. A bond issue, over 20 years, is projected at 8.38 mills. And there will still need to be upgrades/repairs done on the remainder of the building during that time. The 3.92 mill bond issue is the most economical alternative for our district for the next 50 years. The bond issue, if passed, would allow for construction of new energy-efficient facilities, updated technology, and a fully furnished school, with everything for the education of our students, from desks, chairs, and labs, right down to the pots and pans in the kitchen. The only thing not provided by the OSFC project are computers if everything else is furnished, we CAN provide those for our students. Property owners, what do YOU think will be the cheapest alternative for you in the next 50 years 3.92 mills NOW or (fill-in-the-blank) mills later? Make the "practical decision" vote for the United bond issue on Nov. 8.

SUE DROTLEFF, Salem

Responds to recent letter to the editor

To the editor: Dear members of Columbiana County: This letter is in response to a recent letter by Frank Shagnot Sr. from Lisbon. Dear Sir, I respect your views, but I must respectfully disagree with them when it comes to Issue #2 on this November ballot. If you read on you will find out why I feel this way. 1 .You mentioned that your son is a volunteer fireman. God bless him for stepping up to the plate and making sure that not only myself, but others are safe in our homes. I personally would not do his job because I am not qualified to do that. Without people such as your son I don't know what would happen to such things as my family and least important, but still important my house. I sincerely mean that and relay my message to him. 2. The next thing you mention is health insurance. This is where we start to disagree. You and the people that are in favor of Issue #2 should do their research. We do pay for health insurance, not 100 percent as you say your son does. There again I do feel sorry for him, but this is the profession that I also chose to work in. Also, let me say that we as public unions in Cleveland, Ohio, have several times offered to pay more for our health insurance, but not only did the administration want concessions in the health care area, but wanted more in wages and class sizes. We sir, as teachers, have not had a raise in the past five years. We gave up the raises to keep enough teachers employed so we could maintain a workable class size. Before I continue, let me say that I can only speak to what I face in Cleveland, and not in this county. But, on the other hand I would be willing to bet a one day salary that most of what I face the teachers in and around the Mahoning Valley also face and that includes our county. 3.You mentioned a recent survey that you heard about where "kids do better in larger classrooms instead of smaller ones." Mr. Shagnot please do your own research and do not just take the word of those that can and do manipulate surveys. If you are talking about class sizes of 30-35 students than I agree that you can still do your job. In these 30-35 students you must have the perfect students, or have your children in a private school where there are some consequences for bad behavior. In private schools they do not put up with the bad behavior students. In the public school system we have no choice but to put up with it. If you take a survey of every student in this county I would be willing to bet that 85-95 percent of them would want a smaller class of 20-30 students. The learning environment is much better for them. 4. Next, you mention nurses. Sir, if I am taken to a hospital I surely would want a nurse/s that are able to perform their duties and to be aware of the surroundings not one that is overworked because an administration wanted to cut corners and not pay for other nurses. I am not a nurse, but I have been in hospitals and watched what these men and women go through. I like living and these people do everything they can to make sure that people have a chance to remain living.

5. I noticed that you did not mention the policemen/women or firefighters. This issue is not just about teachers or nurses. Why did you not mention them? I want them awake and ready to perform their jobs as well. I want them safe when they have to respond to a problem. I am sure their families will agree with that as well. Again, do their jobs for one day. I don't want to and I bet you don't want to either. I agree with you on the tactics used by our side, but don't forget to mention your side and the tactics they are using. Oh, by the way when you mention this to friends and urge them to vote against this issue, mention to them how the politicians removed themselves from this Senate bill when it comes to wages and health care. They don't ask the voters for raises, they just give themselves one. Don't believe me, again do your research. I am requesting that every voter in our county, for or against, Issue #2 research it before you vote than vote with an informed mind. Don't take the word of the politicians or those from outside our state. Is Ohio in tough times, yes but everyone including the politicians need to do their fair share. Not just the working class. Mr. Shagnot you have my permission to call the newspaper and request my phone number to call me. I will make you a deal to give you one day of my salary to come to Cleveland and teach my classes. I will be there with you. I know people will say that "this is the profession that I chose." They are 100 percent right and I enjoy it immensely. I could not think of any other and I have taught for 14 years in Cleveland. I love every day I am there and I have to this day thanked God for leading me to this. I worked in steel mills for 15 years in Youngstown. Could I handle 30-40 students in a class? You bet I could. Have I handled that many? Absolutely. Did the students get a quality education in that area? I'm not sure but I did the best I could. I hope they did and only time will tell. This is not a union scare tactic; this is the truth from a teacher that lives it every day. Readers, please put yourself in a workers' place and think what life will be like if the Republican Party gets what they want in this area. This is only the beginning.

CHUCK MEAD, Salem

Feels letter to ed led to destruction

To the editor: It appears plausible that the one who attacked my mailbox was probably someone who disagreed with my recent "letter to the editor" concerning the United School Levy coming up for vote on Tuesday.

I understand there are others who wrote letters who have had similar damage.

I do not see how the destruction of someone else's property will have any influence in the decision of a yes or no vote. The only expression of opinion that really matters is VOTING, I'll be voting "yes".

Becky Campbell, Salem

Asks for support of United bond levy

To the editor: This November we have an opportunity to make a great investment in our community and our future by passing the 3.92 mill bond issue that will be used to renovate United Local Schools. This will raise almost $9 million that will be matched by $30 million from the state of Ohio. Not paid for by taxes, but paid with tobacco lawsuit funds specifically designated for schools. United was built over 60 years ago and the structures have served the community well. Eleven additions later the school is in need of many renovations, such as more efficient infrastructures, improved energy efficiency and up-to-date classrooms designed to teach in a high tech age. Flat roofs are costly to maintain and many of the windows need replaced. We will spend as much maintaining an obsolete structure over the next 37 years as we will if we pass this bond issue. What makes more sense? Spending $9 million to keep Band-aiding a 60-year-old school or spend $9 million for a $39 million state of the art retrofit and addition? This is a tough economy to ask for support of any bond issues. But we will never have an opportunity like this again. The taxes paid to the United District are not the highest or lowest in our county. We are right in the middle. And if this new bond passes we will still be in the middle. United has been governed with prudent fiscal oversight by numerous school boards for decades. Using budgetary restraint when necessary but also recognizing progress is critical to providing the best education with the funds available. Eleven additions over 60 years all took leadership to accomplish. Now our board is unanimous in their support of this new issue and is asking us to support their decision. I decided to live in Hanover Township because I wanted my children to attend United. United's open enrollment is impressive and obviously people want their kids to also attend United. A newly retrofitted school will continue to attract people to our community, strengthening property values and our quality of life. This is not an obscene waste of taxpayer money that is so common today. This is an incredibly great deal to modernize United with 79 percent of the funds subsidized by the state! Please join me in supporting our school board and vote yes for United's future on Nov. 8.

PETER C. JOHNSON Jr., Hanover Township

Ohioans must back Issue 2 with a 'yes'

To the editor: Ohioans must support Issue 2/SB 5 with a YES vote in November to help Ohio out of its economic free-fall. This issue affects me personally. I am a public employee. For the past 18 years I have been teaching at The University of Akron. Economics is not only my vocation but my avocation. Ohio is hemorrhaging jobs to other states and countries primarily because over the past few years Columbus has created a hostile business environment. Ohio ranks as one of the top 10 worst states for business. One of the main contributing factors to that low ranking is the prevalence of unionization in Ohio. Companies are moving to Right-To-Work states in droves. Issue 2/SB5 is the first step in advertising to the business community that Ohio is serious about getting its financial house in order and moving towards fostering an environment that is conducive to business. The opponents want you to believe this is about punishing the government worker. No, this is about portraying Ohio as a small government state that is attractive to job and wealth creators. Collective bargaining for private sector workers is not at issue here, though the unions have attempted to confuse you. Issue 2/SB5 relates only to state and local government workers which account for a mere 6.5 percent of Ohio's workforce. The question to be answered is whether public servants work for the people of Ohio, or whether the people of Ohio work for a public servant privileged class who enjoy far greater pay and benefits than the taxpayers who are forced to subsidize them. For years, many of the officials who run our state and local governments agreed to unaffordable compensation deals with public employee unions. The politicians essentially pledged future tax dollars in return for the support and cooperation of the public sector unions. Because those pension and health obligations didn't legally have to be funded immediately, politicians could avoid the repercussions of immediately raising taxes to pay for them. They kicked the can down the road expecting future taxpayers to cover all of these exorbitant salary and retirement promises. Often when these retirement deals were cut, the public officials and the union leaders were, in effect, seated on the same side of the negotiating table. On the opposite side of the table was the vacant chair reserved for the taxpayer. Consider for a moment the absurdity of a process where neither side has to contribute their own resources when negotiating the policies that are creating this spiraling mountain of debt. They have enabled a perpetual class of politicians and government workers, who conspire to steal from the productive wealth creators of society, to fill their pockets with taxpayer money. There is virtually no limit to the plunder of the public by government unions. At least 43 states face shortfalls in this year's budget. This trend cannot continue if the states are to remain financially viable. A similar law in Wisconsin helped turn a projected $3 billion budget shortfall into a $300 million budget surplus in just the last six months. There are two options. The problem can be addressed now by reducing the power of public sector unions opening the door for financial reform. Or, the states can go bankrupt abolishing the power of public sector unions opening the door for financial reform. Financial reform is inevitable. The decision as to which option Ohio will adopt is in the hands of the voters of Ohio this November. Here are a few facts you might want to consider before casting your ballot: Ohio has a dramatic need of budget reform as it is facing a $10 billion budget deficit in 2011. The state has lost over 600,000 private sector jobs in the last ten years. The economic reality of lower tax revenues dictates the state can no longer afford the perks the public sector unions' demand. Ohio's government workers receive far more compensation than their private-sector counterparts. The median government worker in Ohio makes 24.6 percent more than a comparable private-sector worker. Trust me, I am a capitalist. I believe that everyone should be able to make as much money as they possibly can as long as it doesn't come from the backs of the taxpayer. A YES vote on Issue 2/SB5 would eliminate automatic pay raises and introduce merit-based rewards similar to how the private sector operates.

Ohio's state and local government employees' pensions are severely underfunded. A recent study by The Pew Center on the States found that Ohio is the fifth worst state, underfunded by $20 billion. That liability will eventually fall on the shoulders of the Ohio taxpayer if changes are not made. The pension cost to government entities in Ohio is $4.1 billion a year. The costs will continue to grow by $604 million to $768 million during the next five years if current trends continue, according to the analysis done by The Columbus Dispatch, The Plain Dealer, and the state's other large newspapers. Ohio's government workers pay little of their health care and pension costs compared to workers in the private sector. Simply requiring government workers pay what the private sector worker pays would save Ohio taxpayers over $335 million annually. What is more un-American than a law that utilizes the absolute power of government to force Americans to financially support an ideology that they do not believe in or even worse, to which they are vehemently opposed. This is what forced union participation has done to hundreds of thousands of public workers in Ohio. Thomas Jefferson put it best: "To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."

All Ohio public sector workers, who are members of a bargaining unit, are forced to pay union dues whether they wish to or not. Ohio collective bargaining is inconsistent with the right to freedom of association since many members disagree with the views of the monopoly union. Freedom of association is the individual right to come together with other individuals and collectively express, defend, promote, and pursue common interests. While the United States Constitution's First Amendment does not make specific mention of a right of association, nevertheless the United States Supreme Court held in NAACP v. Alabama that the freedom of association is an essential part of the freedom of speech because, in many cases, people can engage in effective speech only when they join with others. Thus, since the freedom of association has been found to be an integral part of the First Amendment, how can forced union participation be constitutional, particularly when it applies to government workers? A yes vote on Issue 2/SB5 would give state workers the option to contribute to union initiatives or not. Maintaining SB5 would free 360,000 Ohio government workers from being forced to support causes with which they do not agree. Public employee unions epitomize conflict of interest, kickbacks and graft. In the private sector, managers live in an environment of real world profit and loss. When negotiating with unions, they must consider the financial ramifications of their decisions. There is survival instinct pushback to counterbalance the union demands. The public sector has no such counterbalance to consider. Governments cannot be driven out of business. They gain their revenue forcibly through taxes. As a result, there is no market limit to how much unions can milk the taxpayer. The unions themselves help choose who negotiates with them on behalf of the people. The unions provide support for politicians at the ballot box and through campaign contributions. The politicians in turn repay the unions by capitulating to their every demand. The difference is that the money to increase the union's salaries and benefits does not come from the wallets of the politicians; it comes from the taxpayer. Neither party negotiating has anything to lose. The only loser is the taxpayer. This inherent conflict of interest leads to innate political corruption. Taxpayer money laundered through government union dues is the root of that corruption.

These are the reasons why even an ultimate liberal like Franklin Delano Roosevelt agreed that there should be no collective bargaining for public servants. Roosevelt said: "All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public-personnel management." The taxpayers and voters of Ohio need to send a message to Columbus. If Ohio is to attract entrepreneurs, producers and innovators who create wealth in the economy, we cannot continue to pillage the fruits of their industry to finance unsustainable compensation for public employees, negotiated by politicians whose only goal is their next election. I urge you to vote YES on Issue 2/SB5.

Jack Loesch, Homeworth

 
 

 

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