Board Votes Down Putting Bond Issue on November Ballot

July 18, 2012
Cleveland Heights, OH

On July 17, CH-UH Board Members voted unanimously against putting the master facilities bond issue on the November ballot. The master facilities plan proposes reconfiguration and renovation of buildings in the district, and the closing of three elementary schools.

A summary of the meeting by Deanna Bremer Fisher of the Heights Observer follows:

What was expected to be a mere formality was instead a change of heart at the July 17 Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education work session. Three board members reversed their earlier positions and voted no on placing a $130.6 million school facilities improvement bond on the November ballot.

The bond issue, which would have had a 36-year maturity, would have cost homeowners $15.06 per month per $100,000 in property tax valuation. At its July 3 meeting, the board voted 3-2 to move forward with placing the issue on the November ballot. Board members Karen Jones, Eric Coble and Nancy Peppler voted in favor of the issue. Ron Register and Kal Zucker cast the dissenting votes.

The unanimous 0-5 vote reversed the board’s earlier decision to move forward.

In explaining his change of opinion, Eric Coble said, “I know that there is a large contingent of the community who feels that this plan is not done yet, is not fully cooked and ready to be presented to the public. And a lot of people are asking specifically for one more year. There have, over the last several weeks, been a number of people who have stepped up, who have promised to continue to work and to continue to give up their time and their efforts to make it a plan that a larger portion of the community can support. I am willing to give them that year.”

Nancy Peppler said, “I want to make it really, really clear that my decision is absolutely not a vote to remove Plan C from consideration. It’s simply a recognition that the traditional school supporters aren’t fully in support of us going forward this November. They’re fully in support, and in fact are demanding, that we go forward on a plan to renovate the facilities, that we go forward in a bold way and do them all, that we go forward and aren’t scared of spending money if the voters pass a bond issue when we get there.”

She added, “I remain committed to going forward, but I believe that we need to take more time to engage those core supporters.”

In standing by his decision to vote no, Kal Zucker stated, “I appreciate that it is not easy to come to a conclusion and then come to a different conclusion, and I appreciate the thought that each of you put into the conclusion you are coming to.”

“This presents an opportunity,” he said. “The interesting thing about an opportunity is that it is only as good as what you do with it. Often, after a very difficult, arduous process, the first inclination, after a decision has been made, is to sit back. Unfortunately, we don’t have that time. We have our work cut out for us.”

“We are in the midst of this process. A lot of what has been done we can build on,” he said. “We need to find the areas where we have commonality, and the areas where we agree, and make something out of this.”

“Whatever happens tonight, it’s still an uphill battle to find a plan that will fit the entire community,” said Karen Jones. “You can’t please everyone.”

“In hearing that the community would like more time to sort this out and try to come together as best they can, because I represent this community and this district and want the best for both, I think going in a different direction at this point in time would be beneficial,” said Jones, adding, “Whatever decision we make, it needs to be a unanimous decision to show that we are united as a board in doing what we believe is best for the district.”

Eric Silverman, president of the Cleveland Heights High School Alumni Association, who had expressed his concerns about Plan C at earlier board meetings and had urged the board not to move forward unless they could make a unanimous decision, said, “I’m floored. I had hoped that maybe one or two members would change their minds, but I never expected they would all vote no.”

Jodi Sourini, of Save Our School University Heights, said she hoped the board would include Gearity parents and University Heights residents in conversations moving forward.