Campaign co-chairs discuss importance of levy

The co-chairs of the Mansfield City Schools Levy Committee are Beth Keefer, Johnny Givand and Jill Haring.

   The three co-chairs of Mansfield City Schools’ Nov. 5 levy committee said Tuesday evening the campaign has a clear goal: Restore the local funds lost a year ago and improve the odds of staying out of state-designated fiscal emergency.

   Co-chairs Jill Haring, Beth Keefer and Johnny Givand spoke during the board of education’s regular meeting at Springmill Learning Center.

   “Whether we like it or not, finances are an important part of education,” said Haring, a 1982 Malabar graduate who has two children in Mansfield City Schools.

   “This campaign is important work. The challenge of this particular levy is the need to restore the funding that the district had at this time last year.”

   Last November the district’s bid for renewal of a five-year levy failed by 359 votes out of more than 13,000 cast during the presidential election. That levy had generated $4 million annually. In May voters approved a separate renewal, but that levy alone falls far short of local funding needs.

   The 10.1-mill, five-year levy on the Nov. 5 ballot is an additional levy, but Haring emphasized that it would restore $4 million yearly.

   “Without that $4 million the district would have a much more serious deficit,” she said. “We would be in danger of being in fiscal emergency.”

   The auditor of state placed Mansfield City Schools in fiscal watch in December 2000. If he were to declare the district to be in fiscal emergency, the state would oversee appointment of a five-member Financial Planning and Supervision Commission to develop a financial recovery plan. That panel would supercede the board of education to oversee district finances and be empowered to cut employees and programs as needed.

   While there is no guarantee that passage of the levy will prevent a fiscal emergency designation, the levy co-chairs said it would improve the chances of retaining local control of schools.

   Keefer is a 1980 Malabar graduate. She and her husband Bill, a 1976 Malabar graduate, have two children who graduated from Mansfield City Schools.

   “My husband and I own a CPA firm and property in the district. As a longtime resident I know that strong schools support property values and local businesses,” Keefer said.

   Givand, a longtime labor leader active in many areas of the community, has three adult children who graduated from Mansfield Senior High School.

   Givand drew laughter when he said that since he is retired others think he has nothing to do. Noting that he has many things to keep him busy, he said he welcomed the opportunity to help lead the levy campaign.

   “This is one thing I enjoy doing – helping our children,” he said. “We have had some outstanding students come out of Mansfield City Schools in all career areas.”

   The co-chairs lauded the support of the Mansfield School Employees Association. MSEA volunteers will campaign door-to-door this month. The association also paid for yard signs.

   Keefer also thanked Lind Outdoor Media for its contribution of billboard space for the campaign.

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