Most Big Walnut area residents are aware of the Big Walnut Local School District’s 8.3-mil, $133.9-million Bond Issue that will be on the November 8 General Election ballot. There has been a lot of banter on social media, both for and against the bond issue. Those for the bond issue are well-organized with a small army working diligently to convince voters to say Yes at the polls.
Those opposed to the bond issue are less organized, if at all, and are not as likely to express their dissatisfaction with the hefty burden the bond issue would place on local property owners if voters approve it.
One exception is Ron Buxton.
Buxton, a Big Walnut graduate who’s children and grandchildren graduated from Big Walnut, attended most of the school district’s public forums that were held prior to the district’s filing to be on the ballot with the Delaware County Board of Elections. Buxton opposes the bond issue, and openly expresses the reasons behind his opposition.
Buxton said there are plenty of other district residents opposed to the bond issue, but they just prefer to remain quiet and speak at the ballot box.
“One reason the bond issue opposition is not more organized is the average person does not want their neighbors to know how they vote,” Buxton said. “No one wants to be accused of being against children and their education, but this is not about that. It’s about facilities and the money needed to obtain those facilities.”
Buxton said the Big Walnut Board of Education and district administration spent roughly $33,000 in taxpayer money to convince district voters that the district is growing at an annual rate of 6.2 percent, causing an immediate need for the $133.9 million construction program. “The actual annual growth rate over the last two years is 3.9 percent,” Buxton said. “The district-wide capacity numbers on file with the State Auditor’s office show that, at the actual current rate of growth, the district has capacity to last through school year 2023-24, which clearly indicates there is no immediate need for a bond issue at this time.”
Buxton said he had been told that the school district is in the process of adopting a new set of standards that will lower the district’s capacity on paper, which justifies, he said in the minds of some, the need for new construction.
“Changing the rules in the middle of the game doesn’t seem quite fair. Welcome to Big Walnut Schools,” Buxton said. “The bond issue, if passed, will add new taxes of $290.50 per year for each $100,000 of property market value. The tax will be retroactive back to January 2016. An e-mail from the County Auditor’s Office states that if approved by voters in November, the levy will begin collection for tax year 2016, payable in 2017. Taxpayers in the district would see the increase on the first half tax bills, which are due February 10, 2017.”
During district community forums, Buxton had said that even if residential growth escalates and the bond issue is needed, it’s not needed immediately; that waiting until the need is more evident; and going on the ballot during either the Primary Election or General Election in 2017 would save area homeowners significant dollars.
“In August, Superintendent (Angie) Pollock said at the bond issue campaign launch that the district enrollment for 2016-17 is 3,652,” Buxton said. “That number could increase by 10-to-20 students by the end of the school year, with midyear move-ins. A vote against the bond issue in November would cause only a minor delay of a few months to the school board’s schedule, but it could save the district taxpayers up to $6 million; and you can rest assured that the bond issue will reappear at the first opportunity.”
Buxton said that people moving into the district should realize Big Walnut, by state standards, is an average school district.
“If students and parents work at it, they can get an excellent education at Big Walnut,” Buxton said. “But like in any school district, getting a good education doesn’t just happen, it takes work and perseverance. “ I don’t think that asking professional educators and board members to be diligent in their homework, completely truthful in their public communications, and respectful of the taxpayers’ concerns is asking too much. I’m on a fixed income. If I have to come up with an extra $600 per year, I have to figure out where it’s coming from. If this bond issue ends up forcing people on fixed incomes to seek public assistance, then we’re going down the wrong road.”
Buxton said more information on why he and others oppose the Big Walnut Local School District’s 8.3-mil, $133.9 million Bond Issue can be found on Facebook at BW Bond Issue Facts.
“If somebody asked me why I’m doing this, I’d say the school board picked the fight,” Buxton added. “Win lose or draw, if I believe in something, I will fight for it.”
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.