AUDIO: Community Engagement Made Difference In Third Southwest Local Schools Levy Vote
By Mike Perleberg
John Hamstra, superintendent of Southwest Local Schools. Photo provided.
(Harrison, Oh.) – John Hamstra, superintendent of Southwest Local Schools, says the community input will not stop just because voters in the district have voted to raise taxes to build new schools.
“It will continue through the buildings being built,” Hamstra told Eagle Country 99.3 on Monday.
School district voters approved the tax levy and bond issue in the November 7 general election, 3,837 votes to 3,663 votes. The final vote is due to be certified this week by boards of election in Hamilton and Butler counties.
It was the third straight year in which the school district attempted to pass the tax increase to help address its facilities needs in an area with a rapidly growing population. It failed by a large margin in 2015, then came a bit closer in 2016.
Hamstra believes community engagement was the difference in getting the community to buy-in and pass the levy on its third appearance on the ballot.
“It took place six months before the election. We got over 1,000 folks’ input on the process and there was a lot of compromise along the way. It was not just six to eight people at a table deciding what was going on the ballot. It was a thousand people giving their take,” Hamstra explains.
HEAR EAGLE COUNTRY 99.3’S INTERVIEW WITH SOUTHWEST LOCAL SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT JOHN HAMSTRA IN THE AUDIO PLAYER BELOW.
If the audio player does not appear, click here to listen to the interview.
The voter-approved bond issue will generate $71.7 million in revenue to construct three new elementary schools, a new middle school, and make renovations to Harrison High School – buildings that Hamstra says will take the district through the next five decades. The tax levy will provide $279,000 annually for building maintenance. Property owners in the school district will see their property taxes increase by $244.69 per year for each $100,000 in valuation.
Hamstra’s hope is that construction on the new schools and high school renovations could begin in the summer of 2018. The new schools could be ready for classes in 2021.