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WBNS 10 TV "Watchdog 10:  "Upper Arlington taxpayers forked over money for expensive meals, trips before levy failed"

This Week News Letters to the Editor
October 24, 2013

School district should live within its budget

I have lived in UA for 50 years.  I graduated from Upper Arlington HIgh School.  In the past, I have supported the school levies, but I am not supporting this one.

Excessive salaries and benefits are only part of my rationale to vote "No".  I have been hearing for several years about the declining quality of the UA school system.

I regularly hear parents complain about the following:  no one trying to address the drug problem at the high school; teachers and administrators being unresponsive to parents' concerns and input; in appropriate behavior between teachers and students; teachers being apathetic regarding their jobs and performance.

The administration and employee unions have taken for granted the generosity and support of the UA taxpayers.

We are paying $15,157 per student.  UA teachers average $78,000 and with benefits, they average $107,000.  Administrators average $98,500 and with benefits they average $140,800.

This is very generous compensation for jobs that have the summer off and get a week off for each holiday.

I believe UA schools are trying to use scare tactics to intimidate taxpayers to vote for the levy.  

I would like to recommend the following five-prong solution:
    • Reopen the union contracts and cut the salaries and benefits.
    • Evaluate every program and extracurricular activity and eliminate or scale back the less important ones.
    • Evaluate every position in the district and eliminate less critical positions, especially administrative positions.
    • Raise or implement fees for activities such as sports and other extracurricculars.
    • Pursue the city and the schools collaborating to share services and resources.
The school board, administrators and union have not acted responsibly.  It is time the school system lives within its means like individuals and businesses do.

Dave Massie
Upper Arlington

This Week News
Letters to the Editor
October 24, 2013

School district budget needs 'realistic solutions'

Some claim that if Issue 53 (UA school levy) fails, 68 teachers will have to be released.

For this to be the only option, that would mean that school board, the administration and the teachers' union all agree that increasing compensation packages for the remaining teachers by double and triple the inflation rate is of higher priority than maintaining student class choice and class size.

If that is the district's position, then the superintendent should simply come out and argue that the No. 1 priority is increasing the highest salaries in central OHio and the second-highest in the entire state, and all other impacts don't matter.

If the voters of UA pass the school levy on this premise, then they should be prepared to have teaching positions threatened every time the district comes to the taxpayer for a tax increase, regardless of private-secotr economic conditions or school district performance.

Vote "No on Issue 52 to resend the message that a realistic solution is required, and that you do not agree with the implied priority of compensation first, no mater the cost.

William E. Gabel, CPA
Upper Arlington

This Week News Letters to the Editor
October 24, 2013

Compensation is just, levy request should wait

When one looks at Issue 52 from a purely rational perspective, the conclusion is undeniable.  The UA school system has plenty of money to spend on its mission to provide a top notch education for our children.

The numbers are pretty clear:  the second-highest per pupil spending in the state.

Over the past 30 years, I have read many studies examining the correlation between school spending and student achievement.  The vast majority of the evidence indicates little correlation between the two.

During the past few weeks, I have read letter from several supporters of the levy indicating that UA needs to spend more money to attract, and keep, the best teachers.  This argument simply doesn't hold water.  Many of the best teachers choose to teach at private schools, and thereby choose to work for 30 percent less than their public school peers.

Assume for a moment that two jobs become available for sixth-grade science teachers, and both offer exactly the same compensation packages.  One is in UA, and the other is in Columbus Public.

Which position do you think will generate the most interest?  And which one do you think will probably land the best teacher?

The success of UA's school system is a function of  many factors:  good-parenting, quality teachers, competent administrators and a communal belief in the value of a quality education.

I believe that our teachers and administrators are already being justly compensated.  Let's wait another three or four years before we consider our next levy.

Michael B. Dehlendorf
Upper Arlington

This Week News Letters to the Editor
October 24, 2013

Money doesn't guarantee top-quality education; thoughtful solutions needed

Educate UA has opened our eyes to some very startling facts. 

For example, did you know that the Ohio Education Association supports the fact that UA's wage scale starts higher, grows faster, and extends further than all comparable school districts in central Ohio? Keeping this fact in mind, one would believe that we are getting what we pay for, and are the most elite school district in the area.

But according to US News * World Report, this is not he case, Upper Arlington HIgh School ranks eighth of the top 15 high schools in central Ohio.

Taking a further look at cost paid versus the quality of education on statewide comparative basis, it is interesting to not that UA's cost per student is $15,157 and is ranked 25th while Olentangy's cost per student is significantly lower cost of $9599 and they are ranked seventh within the state's top 10 high schools.

This is proof of what a study by Stanford University has shown:  there is no correlation between academic achievement and increased spending on education.

This levy will increase taxes on an average UA home ($327,000) by $458 per year on top of the $4,800 that the average homeowner is already paying in school taxes.

All things considered, why would a family choose to settle in the city of Upper Arlington when they can obtain an excellent education for their children elsewhere at a much lower cost?  And what about seniors on a fixed-income who have invested their lives here only to find these new taxes unsustainable?

Upper Arlington residents are urged to vote "NO" on Issue 52.  Just throwing more money at issues that deserve thoughtful solutions just doesn't make sense.

Carol Husenitza 
Upper Arlington

This Week News Letters to the Editor
October 24, 2013

Economic concers will inform 'no' vote on levy

I attended Barrington, Jones, and graduated from UAHS, and I am proud of our great school system. However, proponents of this levy are not being forthright.  They make no mention of the additional million dollars of revenue coming in from the casino and AEP, nor do they admit that the state kept their funding intact, and they never disclose the fact that they have about $25 million in their coffers right now.

Their definition of "wage freeze" actually meant a wage increase of 4.3%.  School employees have continually received annual pay raises, and today, the average UA teacher's annual compensation is well over $107,000.

This levy is not going to improve our schools; it is only going to further improve the wealth of those employed there.

Meanwhile, just on my block alone, I have one neighbor facing bankruptcy, and I know two others on my street who lost their jobs over a year ago.  So, my choice is between giving raises to our already wealthy teachers or not raising taxes on folks who plainly cannot afford it.

Of course, I am absolutely voting "NO" on Issue 52.

Kim Booth
Upper Arlington

This Week News Letters to the Editor

Who is really running the Upper Arlington School Board?

When 85 percent of the school's budget is spent on salary and benefits, you have to ask who is running the school board?

We have the second-highest paid teachers in Ohio.  The average cost to Upper Arlington taxpayers per teacher last year was over $107,000.  UA spent more than $15,000 per student, one of the highest in the county.

The school district recently added assistant principals to each school that they had not needed for the last 90 years.  They average administrator costs over $140,000 per year.  They even have 1- non-teaching "curriculum advisors" at the cost of over $100 thousand each when only one other district in central Ohio has four and most have none.

This district is threatening the firing of 68 teachers if they don't get this levy passed.  The school district should get their expenses more in line with the other top districts and not just keep running to the taxpayers for more money.

The UA teachers' union reported to the school board last Monday that they had raised over $12,000 to support the levy and they were willing to man the phone banks and walk the streets to support the levy.

Who is the school board representing?  (Certainly not the taxpayers.)  The only way for taxpayers to have a say in this unrelenting grab for money is to vote "No" on Issue 52.

Mark Erickson
Upper Arlington

This Week News
Letters to the Editor
October 24, 2013

Responses to questions unsatisfactory

One wonders how honest the school board has been with the taxpayers with regard to the information they put forward on Issue 52.

On their websites (UA Citizens for the Levy and OEA), to their credit, the pro-levy crowd has at least responded to many of thi concerns Educate UA raised last November.  However, upon analysis of their responses, a whole lot of clever spin is detected.

Last election cycle, residents were informed that teacher salaries would be "frozen."  This year, we find salaries rose 4.3%.  When criticized about high-per pupil costs ($15,157 per student per year), the school board responds with the weak argument of those vicious cost-drivers of "fine arts programs, robust counseling/health services, 32 varsity sports," and an abundance of "intramurals" and of course, "more than 50 student clubs."

When it is pointed out that UA's academic prowess does not measure up, based on actual testing, the administration responds with, "Our schools are focused on the whole child" and "ratings are a narrow view" and "government tests in a few selected subjects."

I guess reading comprehension, math and science don't matter much these days.

Lastly, just out for notification the week of Oct. 13 is the 2013 five-year school forecast.  Stated unequivocally, over the next four years, UA school payroll will increase 7 percent and benefits will increase 31 percent, giving employees a combined annual increase of 3.3 percent in overall compensation.

Where, exactly is the belt-tightening in this recent forecast report?

When one conducts an honest appraisal of the economic conditions in the "school patch," it is simply a difficult stretch to approve this levy.  I strongly encourage a "NO" vote on Issue 52.

George Momirov
Upper Arlington

This Week News
Letters to the Editor
October 24, 2013

Board response was more than 'informational'

Not one, but two sections of the Ohio Revised Code expressly prohibit Ohio school boards from spending public money to support the passage of a school levy or bond issue (Ohio Revised Code 9.03 and 3315.07).

Although informational communications are allowed, opinions from the Ohio Attorney General and state auditor make clear that school boards are strictly prohibited from spending taxpayer dollars on communications designed to promote or influence the outcome of a school levy.

I believe the Upper Arlington Board of Education ran afoul of these restrictions when it spent taxpayer dollars on a citywide mailer during the first week in October, and when it decided to attack point-by-point the issues raised by citizens opposed to the levy on the school district's website.

The website's statements go far beyond "informational," rising to the highest level of political discourse.  

The question necessarily arises, since the UA Board of Education has blatantly violated Ohio law prohibiting taxpayer expenditures for political purposes, why should we, as taxpayers, vote yes to send them even more of our hard-earned tax dollars?

Mark Calvary
Upper Arlington

This Week News Letters To the Editor
October 24, 2012

Avenues available to change district budget allocations

I would like to thank Dr. Lichtblau for his letter that supports Educate UA's position.

While a UA school board member, Dr. Lichtblau writes that he "found it difficult to stem the growth of salaries and benefits."

Educate UA agrees; salaries and benefits in the UA schools are on a runaway course.

Even the Ohio Education Association supports our findings.  Its September magazine lists UA as the second highest paying school district in Ohio.

Instead of threatening cuts to teachers, though, Educate UA has identified solutions.  We advocate making adjustments to the district's health care package to bring it in line with the private sector.  We also propose freezing the wage scale until the economy has rebounded.

Doing so helps curb salary growth and slows benefit increases since taxpayer funded contributions to the State Teachers Retirement Fund are based on teacher salaries.

Even with these changes, UA schools will have some of the highest compensation packages around.

When the district talks about balancing its budget, it's balancing a projected budget that includes generous compensation increases .  In the private sector, when times get tough, increases need to be curbed so businesses can stay afloat.  This hasn't happened with the UA schools.

We can continue to say it is too "difficult to stem the growth of salaries and benefits." or we can look at solutions.  Let's come together and look at the avenues available to us and no close the door on our children's future by threatening their teachers.  It's time for solutions.

Joyce Blake
Upper Arlington

This Week News
Letters to the Editor
October 24, 2013

School board members need to use independent judgement

We should expect the elected representatives on the Upper Arlington school board to use independent judgement to represent the interests of students and taxpayers rather than the interests of special interest groups like the unions and administrators.

UA teachers are well-compensated.  According to a recent Ohio Education Association study, UA is the second highest paying school district in Ohio.  In fiscal 2013, total wages and compensation for UA teachers and administrators was $68.7 million , which was 85 percent of total expenditures.

If the board had managed salary increases to reflect the economic downturn that affected us all and awarded teachers more modest increases, even a mere 1 percent less annually, the district could have saved over $3.2 million without cutting any positions.

Educate UA estimates that current budget shortfall at only $700,000 and that includes generous pay and benefits.  Small adjustments to compensation are all that is needed, not a $6.3 million tax increase.

When the school board agrees to put a levy request on the November ballot  before the union negotiations with the OAPSE and UAEA are even started, you know the board is not representing what is best for students and taxpayers.  How could anyone with independent judgement ask taxpayers to approve an increase in taxes before they are able to budget the most significant part of future district expenditures?

Approving a levy in advance of negotiation a union contract removes any leverage from the school board, and thus the taxpayer to assure prudent expenditures.  It assures that the unions will negotiate to the total amount of the levy.

Taxpayers should vote for school board members willing to implement reasonable solutions and they should vote "NO" on Issue 52 until the school board show better judgement

Mark A. Bainbridge, CPA 
Upper Arlington


This Week News
Letters to the Editor
October 24, 2013

Millage rate is only one part of the taxing formula

An interesting quote from our schol treasurer that "incomplete information is inaccurate information" prompts shining a light on that incomplete information.

Claims that our millage rate is low can falsely imply that our tax burden is less than surrounding communities.  Millage rate is one part of a two-part formula that includes home value to arrive at you actual taxes.  Actual taxes in UA are among the highest in central Ohio.

This is substantiated by the Ohio Education Association (OEA) that UA is the second-highest compensation in the state of Ohio and reinforced by the Ohio Department of Education citing UA as one of the highest costs per student in the state.  You can't claim to have lowest and correspondingly claim that you have the highest costs.

These UA costs are brought on by double and triple retirements and locked in compensation programs that result in automatic pay increases.  These systems have led to salaries of $95,000 per year for librarians, $85,000 school nurses, and $90,000 guidance counselors.

Another fallacy is that school levy failures will negatively affect your property taxes.  In the Aug. 22, 2013 edition of This Week UpperArlington News, the Upper Arlington housing market was cited as "one of the strongest in central Ohio."

That includes data (after a school levy defeat in 2012) showing UA second in average days on the market for homes to be sold, and a rapid decrease in the number of days a home remains on the market (dropping from 109 to only 23 days).

While taxpayer incomes have gone down or been stagnant, school employees' incomes have increased by 34 percent to 40 percent.

Even during a claimed "pay freeze" the compensation went up by 4.3 percent.  How can a "freeze" result in such a large increase?

Dan McCormick
Upper Arlington

This Week News
Letters to the Editor
October 24, 2013

Excellent fiscal management also should matter for district

The headline for Oct. 10 editorial page of This Week Upper Arlington News ("Students benefit from having well-paid teachers") appears to me to be an outright endorsement to the proposed school levy, Issue 52.

Shouldn't an editor presenting letters to the editor be unbiased?

Excellence Matters is the tag line for those appealing for our vote on Issue 52.  Yes, excellence matters, and we should demonstrate that with excellent fiscal management, not runaway spending.

By the way, what are we teaching our students about managing their own finances when we have trouble with our own?  We should all learn a lesson (and in turn, teach a lesson) from the current fiscal crises facing us with the national debt ceiling.  Whether you're Democrat or Republican, when the pocketbook is empty, it's empty.  Why do we have to cloud the issue with guilt-ridden questions about our allegiance to our teachers and our sacrifice to our students?

We all want the best education for our students. Perhaps we need to take a lesson from the school systems who are actually rated "excellent" and who spend far less than we do per student.  There are virtually no statistics that support spending more money will enhance our students' education.

Please vote "NO" on Issue 52, and let's rein in our spending to match our pocketbooks.

Lyn Amaral
Upper Arlington


This Week News Letters to the Editor
October 17, 2013

It's time to end business as usual

My mother was fond of imparting wisdom.  The older I get, the more I realize how, in many ways, she was correct.

One of her favorite sayings was, "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all."

In today's contentious political arena, it isn't too far a stretch to restate these words as "If you don't have the facts on your side, attack the messenger."

Steve H. Lichtblau did exactly that with his letter published in the Oct. 10, 2013 This Week Upper Arlington News.  Rather than defend Issue 52 with facts, he chose to denigrate retired teacher Joyce Blake, the treasurer of Educate UA.

Upper Arlington teachers are according to a September 2013 Ohio Education Association report, the second highest paid in the state of Ohio.  On average, when adding in retirement and benefits, administrators are paid in excess of $140,000 and teachers are paid an average of $107,00.

Upper Arlington's cost per student is $810 higher than it nearest central Ohio competitor - UA $15,157 versus Bexley $14,347.

A 2009 study by Stanford University, "Some Questions You've Always Had About Education and Why we Now Have the Answers," showed there is no correlation between academic achievement and increased education spending.

A 2008 study by the Heritage Foundation, "Does Spending More on Education Improve Academic Achievement" comes to the same conclusion.

Issue 52 is asking for $6.3 million in new revenue.  Educatie UA concludes that through a combination of cost cutting and unanticipatied revenue, UASD's budget shortaall is $700,000 per year.

I urge voters to go to EducateuA>org and read the POsition Paper, learn the facts, and decide for themselves how to vote on Issue 52.

Its time to control unsustainable salaries, tackle runaway benefits, eliminate double retirements and end business as usual in the Upper Arlington School District.

Catherine Hackett
Upper Arlington

This Week News Letters to the Editor
October 17, 2013

After decisively defeating a 5.8 mill levy in 2012, the voters of Upper Arlington are now faced with a 4 mill levy this November.

The superintendent and treasurer of UA schools, after having cut 30 staff as a result of the 5.8 mill levy failure, have now announced that if they current levy fails, they plan to cut 68 additional staff.

UA taxpayers would have liked to discuss less-drastic solutions to the budget issue, but the school administration has shut down those lines of communication.

The superintendent has advised some neighborhood groups that his administration is limited by Ohio law from discussing any detail issues involving compensation, retirement and other benefits which might come up in future negotiations with the education unions.  This presents the voters with a real dilemma in that approximately 85 percent of the budget is taken up by wages and benefits.

Therefore, other than cutting jobs, any other costs involving personnel, such as compensation, retirement, health care and other benefits, have been taken off the table for discussion by the school administration.

Given these restrictions, one must conclude that a settlement will be negotiated with the unions in December 2014 and be presented to the citizens as a fait accompli, right along with another levy in 2015 to pay for it.

In fact, the school board, superintendent and treasurer are offering a false choice to the UA taxpayers. Pass the levy or lose teachers.  UA is the second highest paying school district in Ohio, according to the Ohio Education Association.  Adjusting pay scales and benefit packages offer ample opportunities to both save money and save the jobs of our valued teachers.

Taxpayers should vote "NO" and defeat Issue 52.

Terry McKee
Upper Arlington


This Week News Letters to the Editor
October 17, 2013

District returning to a drying-up well

Well, here we go again.  Once again, the Upper Arlington schools are going "to the well" to ask voters and property owners to further increase our already high real estate taxes to pay for a 21-percent increase in benefits for insurance and retirement for administrators, teachers, etc.  

Even though some positions were cut after the last elections, the salaries of the remaining employees increased 4.3% during a time of economic hardship nationally.

As a veteran of many years employment in the private sector, I never experienced a situation with an annual wage increase, nor received benefits such as medical insurance, retirement, etc.  A few times, I received a week or a few days of paid vacation.  Often, jobs were ended a few days short of an anniversary of employment so that no paid vacation was deemed to be earned.

For a person such as me, the salary and benefits presently received by teachers, school administrators, and other employees would be considered more than ample for persons employed in the private sector.  Yet they ask for more.

How many property owners have kept records of the total sum of money paid in real estate taxes since they acquired their home?  I have every tax bill from the very beginning to the present, and I know to the penny.

In just two short years, by the summer of 2015, the total taxes paid on my home, at the present rate of taxation, will be triple the purchase price of my home.

Had enough?  Join me in voting "NO" on Issue 52 on Nov. 5.

Donna Stoner
Upper Arlington

This Week News Letters to the Editor
October 17, 2013

Schools also need financial excellence

"Excellence Matters" say the pro-school levy signs.  But excellence doesn't have to cost this much!  School district employees' wages start higher, grow faster and extend farther than the wages of comparable school districts in central Ohio.  From 2007 to 2012, UA employees received pay increases of 30-45 percent, while taxpayers faced pay cuts, job losses and a decline in retirement savings and home values.  

This unsustainable growth in wages and benefits is out of line with other school districts and with the private sector.  The district can make reasonable cuts to compensation.  During 2012's "wage freeze," teacher salaries increased 4.3%.  Actually freezing the sage scale until the economy has rebounded could further enhance our district's fiscal health.

The pro-levy group say it is presenting a "leaner" plan, but until teacher compensation is addressed more trimming is possible.  School districct employees have a far more generous health benefits package ($16,700) than most in the private sector ($15,500).  Increasing the percentage that employeees pay for their health care from 12 percent to 30 percent - the amount for the average private-sector worker pays -would generate further savings. 

Making these changes would save the district $1.5 million annually.

No one wants anything less than excellence in our schools.  But we desire the same level of excellence in financial responsibility and accountability.  Let's not follow the federal government's example of overspending taxpayer money in a irresponsible fashion.  By reining in the 21-percent increase in employee benefit costs over the next three years and addressing the rate of growth of the wage scale, we can gereate savings, save teaching positions, and ease the taxpayers' burden.  Vote "NO" on Issue 52.

Sally Ewan
Upper Arlington

Columbus DIspatch Letters to the Editor
October 14, 2013

Compensation has grown for UA teachers

I respond to the Oct. 6 letter "Retired teacher changed tune on raises," from Steven H. Lichtblau, in which he made a personal attack on a former teacher and member of Educate UA, a group formed to articulate why an additional Upper Arlington school levy is not appropriate at this time.

I, too, voted consistently to increase school levies in the 1960s and 1970s because the teachers were grossly underpaid.  This is not the case today.

The school employees in UA currently have the most generous compensation package in central Ohio, averaging $107,000 annually, and the second-most generous one in the state of Ohio.

They could have a pay freeze and a step-increase freeze and still have the most generous compensation package in the area.  If this were done, the district would have a surplus.

If UA school district officials are really interested in solutions, they might review the EducateUA.org website and see the various options that would make the levy unnecessary.  They also might review the Oct. 5 Wall Street Journal article "Pay raises for teachers with master's under fire."  Additional approaches are mentioned.

Some have mentioned that the top priority stated on pro-levy websites, such as that of the school district, looks to be an attempt to extort "yes" votes from the taxpayers by holding the children hostage and terrorizing the teachers who might lose their jobs.

No, this is not a much-needed levy.  What is much needed is a more-responsible exercise of fiduciary responsibility on behalf of the taxpayers by all personnel responsible for district spending.  It's time for solutions.  Excellence in management does matter.

William E. Gabel
Upper Arlington

This Week News Letters to the Editor
October 10, 2013

UA schools' ranking should be better

A 2013 US News & World Report article on the college preparedness of Ohio's schools ranked UAHS (score 42.0) at No. 25.  The top two schools scored 78 and 75.7.  

If excellence matters, considering the high quality of UA's teachers, hefty per-pupil costs, and community support, is the ranking acceptable?

How do the UA school board and administrators account for this ranking?   Does it demonstrate sound academic management?   Or did they allow the curriculum to stray into the pricey, foggy realm of journals, portfolios, travel and conferencing while sacrificing quality reading and writing programs?

Can one infer that the academic ranking points to underlying management deficiencies including budget management?  Is the board's belated and recent flirtation with frugality just election-year levy politicking? Were teachers' positions cut unnecessarily as a numbers scare tactic to goad UA voters into supporting a tax increase?  Did the district "cut" its budget only to the point of running a slight deficit to justify an unnecessary levy?

UA's parents and teachers are dedicated and educated.  Consequently, UA should be able to deliver top-rated academic performance at a moderate cost.  The board and administrators owe allegiance to the community and not to the promotion of progressive academic fads or, when the jar gets empty unsustainable tax increases or unfunded liabilities.

(I've read numerous articles reporting that exorbitant school spending does not improve academic performance.  Washington DC's schools are an example UA likely is not an exception.)

I think UA voters should not support any school levy until academic rankings improve or are explained; the board can prove that it is a competent manager of its budget and academic programs; and the teachers' union contract is negotiated satisfactorily in December 2014.

Frank Wirsing
Upper Arlington

This Week News Letters to the Editor
October 10, 2013

  District should reign in wages, benefits

Everyone on both sides of the issue agrees that excellence in UA schools matters.  The real question to be addressed is what is "excellence" and how much does "excellence cost? We have a long history in UA of supporting and passing every levy and happily handing the money over to the district.  Yet per the Ohio Education Association, UA has the highest-paid teachers in Franklin County and the second-highest paid teachers in the state with an average salary and benefits of $107,400.

So this is how UA ends up with a high cost per pupil, comparatively.  According to US News & World Report: Best Ohio High Schools, Olentangy Liberty and Olentangy rank fourth and seventh in the state and have a $9,599 cost per student.

Dublin Coffman and Jerome rank 12th and 15th with a $12,709 cost per student.  New Albany ranks 18th with a cost of $12,138 per student and UAHS ranks 25th with a cost of $15,157 per student.

After the failure of the last levy, the district still expects the taxpayers to go along and pass this levy to avoid the difficult taks of truly budgeting.  With the economy stangnant and for the sake of the younger families and older residents of the community, the school district needs to reign in wages ad benefits and not continue to add to the UA tax burden.

"Excellence" can be achieved without all the bells and whistles, salaries and benfits aforded to the schools.  Based on US News & World Report, "excellence" can and has been achieved at a lower cost.  Maybe the UA district should give one of those school districts a call to find out how it's done?

Vote NO on Issue 52.

Kris Turkelson
Upper Arlington

This Week News Letters to the Editor
October 10, 2013

Tax increases are unaffordable

Educate UA has cogently demonstrated that the Issue 52 levy is unnecessary.

A WBNS investigation of UA school district travel and food expenses has revealed the school administration's failure to meet its fiduciary obligations.  Passing Issue 52 would condone and reward its wasteful extravagance.

But beyond the merits of the levy, have you considered the impact of the continuing tax increases? My family moved here in 1986.  Since then, while the cost of living has increased slightly more than 200 percent, our property taxes have increased more than 700 percent.  That is an annual rate of 7.5 percent, dwarfing the annual increases in inflation.  I bet you are in a similar situation.

Despite having a relatively modest home, our property txes are almost $10,000 a year.  If property taxes continue to escalate at 7.5 percent annually, our taxes will be more than $40,000 in 20 years.   That is more than a 400 percent increase.

Do the math.  You are probably in the same boat.  Can you afford it?  If tax increase continue, many of you will not be able to afford to pay them.  And who will buy your home if it has such a tax bill attached to it?  What will that do to property values?

Today, a considerable number of our senior citizens cannot afford another tax hike.  Taxes go up, but their incomes remain the same.  UA teachers are already the highest paid in central Ohio.  We are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Don't be swayed by bogus appeals claiming this is for the kids.  Kids will benefit little from passage of the levy.  Get the facts.  The facts do not support passing this issue.

F. Timothy Thurston
Upper Arlington

Columbus Dispatch Letters to the Editor
Wednesday October 9, 2013

Work together to cut expenses in UA

I would like to thank Steven H. Lichtblau for his Sunday letter "Retired teacher changed tune on raises," which supports Educate UA's position.  Lichtblau wrote that during his time on the Upper Arlington Board of Education he "found it difficult to stem the growth of salaries and benefits."

Educate UA agrees:  Salaries and benefits in the UA schools are on a runaway course.  Even the Ohio Education Association supports our findings.  Its September magazine lists UA as the second highest paying school district in Ohio.  Instead of threatening cuts to teachers, Educate UA has identified solutions.  We advocate making adjustments to the district's health care package to bring it in line with the private sector.

We also propose freezing the wage scale until the economy has rebounded.  This helps curb salary growth and slows benefit increases, since taxpayer funded contributions to the State Teachers Retirement Fund are based on teacher salaries.

Even with these changes, UA schools will have some of the highest compensation packages around. When the district talks about balance its budget, it's balancing a projected budget that includes generous compensation increases.  In the private sector, when times get tough, increases need to be curbed so that businesses can stay afloat.  This hasn't happened with the UA schools.

We can continue to say it's too "difficult to stem the growth of salaries or benefits," or we can look at solutions.

Let's come together and look at the avenues available to us and not close the door on our children's future by threatening their teachers.  It's time for solutions.

Joyce Blake
Upper Arlington

Columbus Dispatch Letters to the Editor
Wednesday October 9, 2013

Olentangy gets more for its money than UA

It was disappointing to read in Sunday's Dispatch that letter writer Steve Lichtblau, a former member of the Upper Arlington Board of Education's Negotiating team on education union contracts, felt the need to personally attack a retired UA teacher for her position against the current school levy.

The US News & World Report survey on US high schools for 2013 ranks Upper Arlington 25th in the state of Ohio.

Two high schools in the Olentangy district rank in the top seven.  Per pupil spending in UA is $15,157, while per-pupil spending in the Olentangy District is $9,599.  Olentangy manages to significantly outrank UA while spending $5,558 less per pupil, a difference of 37%.

That is called doing more with less.

Perhaps Upper Arlington has been using the wrong negotiating team.

Terry McKee
Upper Arlington

Columbus Dispatch Letters to the Editor
Monday October 7, 2013

UA School Board should first focus on contracts

We should expect the elected representatives on the Upper Arlington Board of Education to use independent judgement to represent the interests of students and taxpayers rather than the interests of special-interest groups like the unions and administrators.

Upper Arlington teachers are well compensated.  According to a recent Ohio Education Association study, A is the second-highest paying school district in Ohio.

In fiscal 2013, total wages and compensation for UA teachers and administrators were $68.7 million which was 85% of the district's total expenditures.

If the school board had managed salary increases to reflect the economic downturn that affected us all and awarded teachers more-modest increases, even a mere 1% less annually, the district could have saved more than $3.2 million without cutting any positions.  Educate UA estimates the current budget shortfall at only $700,000, and that includes generous pay and benefits  Small adjustments to compensation are all that is needed, not a $6.3 million tax increase.

But when the school board agreed to put a levy request on the Nov. 5 ballot before the union negotiations with the teachers' and employees' unions are even started, one realized the board is not representing what is best for students and taxpayers.  How could anyone with independent judgement ask taxpayers to approve an increase in taxes before they are able to budget the most significant part of future expenditures?

Approving a levy in advance of negotiating a union contract removes any leverage from the school board, and thus the taxpayer, to assure prudent expenditures.  It assures that the union will negotiate to the total amount of the levy.

Taxpayers should vote for school board members willing to implement reasonable solutions, and they should vote on on Issue 52 until the school boards shows better judgement.

Mark Bainbridge
Upper Arlington

_____________________________________________________________________________________

This Week Community News
 
Article
Wednesday October 3, 2013

Campaign for November Levy Votes Heats Up
"The cost cutting the district has instituted has not addressed the underlying issue of wages greater than comparable school districts and benefits out of line with those obtainable in the private sector."
"Threatening cuts to teachers us unwarranted given the cost saving opportunities available to the district."

The district's treasurers says our analysis is incomplete, but fails to explain how.  Educate UA's analysis is based on the district's 5-year forecast, the treasurer's reports to the UA School Board and data from the Ohio Department of Education.  Educate UA welcomes a public discussion based on the facts.
Read full article.



This Week Community News Letters to the Editor 
Wednesday October 3, 2013

School District Needs to Tighten Its Belt

I have lived in Upper Arlington for over 33 years. Two of my children are UA graduates.

Issue 51 was the first school levy I voted against. Issue 52 will be the second.

The September issue of the Ohio Education Association magazine reports that UA teachers are paid more than 97 percent of all teachers in Ohio. Knowing this, the UA school board wants to increase compensation by more than 21 percent in the next three years. How can that be justified?

My story goes like this: Jim is a software engineer making six figures. My job goes away because my company can hire a Ph.D. in New Delhi for the same cost as their contribution to my Social Security. Belt-tightening happened.

The UASD loses a levy. Their reaction is to lay off some teachers, raise athletic fees, make adjustments to hourly employee wages and benefits and declare that is all they can do. Now the district declares it must have more money, so it can pay for a 21-percent increase in benefits and wages. And for what -- to pay double retirements to administrators? To pay for employee compensation packages that are almost double what they are in the private sector?

Please don't construe this as an attack on UA school employees. They are all very good people, just living in a bubble. The same goes for the UA school board, but they are not being fiscally responsible. Learn to live on your income. I had to.

The UASD is predicting a loss of 68 teachers if Issue 52 fails. What are their fellow teachers willing to give up to save their jobs?

When Issue 52 fails the UASD will have the same amount of money they had on Nov. 4. Tighten the belt.

Join me in voting no on Issue 52.

Jim Hitt
Upper Arlington



This Week Community News
Letters to the Editor 
Wednesday October 3, 2013

Still Plenty of Reasons to Reject School Levy

Knock Knock,

"Who's there?"

"It's Upper Arlington schools."

"UA schools, again? What do you want this time, more money, right?"

"Exactly, we're 'going to the well' again and want you to vote to further raise your already high property taxes so we can sustain our compensation growth, regardless of the private sector having to sacrifice in what are still fragile economic times. We want $458 more for the average UA home."

"Things haven't changed much for us in the private sector since the last time we voted on this."

"Yes, we know. You all voted us down last time, but you wouldn't do that again would you? After last year's defeat, we thought we scared you by cutting 30 teachers when we could have saved those jobs by making reasonable cuts in compensation without affecting the curriculum."

"I heard this wage 'freeze' the schools had in 2012 was no freeze at all because UA teacher salaries still increased 4.3 percent while wages of similar school districts remained stagnant."

"Well, huh, that did not work out so well, but we hope that threatening to cut some more teaching positions will work well this time with UA residents who may not have read all the facts."

"I read that with the cost-cutting, new revenue and continued state funding, the district's potential budget shortfall is just $700,000. Why are you asking for $6.3 million?"

"It never hurts to ask."

This levy represents 100 percent new revenue to the district. If the levy should fail, the current revenue stream that makes UA schools one of the most highly funded districts in the state will remain in place. I'm voting 'no' on Issue 52.

Educate yourselves UA -- go to EducateUA.org.

Brian R. Grim
Upper Arlington



This Week Community News Letters to the Editor 
Monday September 30, 2013

Levy Before Contract is Putting Cart Before Horse

I wonder if the timing of the proposed UA school levy (Issue 52), scheduled to be on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, is a wise strategy?

Since the new contract with the teachers' union won't be completed until December 2014, how is it the school board leadership can factor their fiscal operational needs at this point in time, without firm labor costs for the next four years?

It appears this levy request is putting the cart in front of the horse.

Additionally, the bargaining strategy by the board of education seems to want to enter these negotiations by dumping $6.3 million (the annual revenue produced by a 4-mill levy tax increase) on the table and asking the union lawyers for the OEA, "How much do you want?"

Let me be clear: I think the taxpayers deserve a more steely-eyed, tightfisted approach to the prudent management of our educational dollars, especially in an ailing economy.

Wages and benefits are 85 percent of the UA school district's budget. These costs are the biggest piece of the pie when determining the trajectory of spending in the district.

If cuts are not made to this area, we cannot put the district on a sustainable path.

Let's put the horse back in front of the cart where it should be. Vote no on Issue 52.

George Momirov
Upper Arlington



This Week Community News Letters to the Editor 
Monday September 30, 2013

Compensation Drives Budget

The Upper Arlington school district states that if the proposed additional levy is not approved, 65 teachers will be separated.

A review of the budget indicates that this will happen only if the compensation packages for the remaining employees continue to grow at a rate that exceeds two to three times the rate of inflation.

Thus, the school district appears to have set the priorities. The first priority is to keep central Ohio's most generous compensation packages for school employees growing at an already unsustainable rate. This will be done at the expense of the number of teachers and the curriculum.

In short, unsustainable growth in compensation trumps curriculum. An interesting way to extol excellence, don't you think?

Send a message: Spending as usual is not what the voters had in mind last year. Vote no on Issue 52.

William E. Gabel
Upper Arlington