Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Early Observations

Just a few thoughts, as we begin a new calendar year . . .

It is obvious which of the new board members does their homework - and also who doesn't. This is an important job, and it does take work - no doubt about it.

Also, some comments have been made about the Recreation Program that bother me. Here's the thing: the changes that were made to the rec program were not done lightly, nor arbitrarily. Countless hours of research and meetings and study were done by at least 3 members of the former board (and probably more), along with more hours by the Treasurer and Superintendent. The decisions that were made were not made without a thorough look at both sides of the issue.

I understand that those not privy to all of the information we had at our disposal during the time of restructuring might not fully appreciate what was done or why. I am certain that either Cheryl or Paulette would be willing to more fully explain it to anyone who would ask.

It is true that Swanton's original Park & Rec program had morphed from its original core values into something unrecognizable, and that an entitlement mentality had overshadowed the purpose of the programs. But that doesn't mean we should just throw up our hands and say, "oh well - that's the way it's been done for years and so we can't change it, because that's just what people expect - if we try to change it, we won't get any cooperation".


Here's a simple analogy: when Mrs. Smith first enters the classroom of Mrs. Jones who has left to have a baby, and the kids say, "but we ALWAYS did it like THIS", what will Mrs. Smith say? If she's a teacher worth her salt, she will keep the things that are appropriate and jettison those that aren't, regardless of the desires of the students. Right?

At the risk of repeating myself, let me state it again. NO other recreation program in the state of Ohio pays their coaches or directors like we used to do, with a school district tax levy. None. Nowhere. Nada. The programs are self-sufficient, running off of gate receipts, concessions and fees. The person in charge of the entire rec program, the Head Honcho, if you will, is likely to have a salary - but that's the ONLY person who does. Each particular sports director (Soccer, Baseball, Basketball, Football, Cheerleading, etc) is a volunteer, and usually a parent of a participating child, as are the coaches. Parents are expected to help out in their child's chosen sport.

Why did that become such a foreign concept here?? I don't know. But now that we have finally turned things around and are beginning to see positive results - the last thing we should consider is a return to the former, inappropriate policies, no matter who liked it that way.

I realize that being a director or a coach takes time and work. I did it for my own kids, when they were involved in rec program sports. That is what a parent DOES for their kids! It is a sacrifice of time and money, but that's part of what parenting is all about.

And I'm just enough of a hard-nose to say that, if we don't have any parents willing to step up to the plate without being paid, then that particular sport can be eliminated from our program until we get some parents who will gladly volunteer their time.


Deacon said...

As a Village Councilman and whose consitituents are the ones most affected by the school boards decision to unilaterly disband the Park and Recreation Board I need to point out a huge falsehold in you latest blog "NO other recreation program in the state of Ohio pays their coaches or directors like we used to do, with a tax levy." In my very brief search I located more than 20 park and recreation programs that are supported by local tax levys, one example is Sylvania Park District. Which according to thier website is supported by a .85 mil operating levy and a .5 mil improvement levy. Swanton used to have an operting levy, until the school board refused to renew it, that taxed all of the citizens of the school district for use and operations of the park and recreation program. Now we only have the improvment levy, which is paid for only by the citizens of the Village of Swanton. However, the school district has 100% FREE use of these facilities for their recreation and varsity programming, with no acknowledgement of the taxes already being paid by the residents of the Village of Swanton, even though this was requested by the Village Council last year. Based on my research we are the only ones in our area that have this arrangement. This practice was put in place in recognition of the operating levy.
Deacon D. Dzierzawski
Village of Swanton

C Irmen said...

Pray tell, Deacon, how Village Residents were the ones "most affected" by anything done at the school district level? I humbly suggest that any school district decision affects the entire school district - village residents being only a piece of the larger pie.
How was the decision made "unilaterally" when our course of action was suggested and recommended by your fellow Council members who met with us several times to discuss the appropriate strategy for our district children?
How convenient for you to "forget" that Village parks are used by many other organizations "100% FREE". What type of acknowledgement of village residents taxes paid do you require from all of these entities - us included - who use the village parks?
And please provide for your readers the details of any recreation program with a school district tax levy that supports its operation. Just one will suffice. Any one at all.
If you are going to make these claims, and essentially call me a liar, you need to back said claims with facts. Save the rhetoric for another venue.
p.s. next time use spell-check

C Irmen said...

Our school district treasurer, Cheryl Swisher writes:
"Just for clarification - none of those other park and recreation levies run through school districts. There are NO school districts in the state of Ohio that run a levy for recreation like we used to.
And, as for the use being "FREE" - that is true in the sense that the school does not pay rent (well a $1.00), but last year the school paid over $3900 in wages for a person to maintain the fields for the park as a gratitude for the village and its residents letting us use the facilities for our sport programs. The village did not incur additional expenses for the use of the park and was allowed to hold its annual fireworks on school property without a charge - and the clean up was paid for by the school - again in gratitude to the village and its residents for their support of our programs.
Both entities support each other in ways that are not measured in dollars and cents.
I hope a positive relationship can continue as it is in the best interest of the kids that play in those programs."

Deacon said...

As a point of clarification, the Village was against the dissolution of the Park and Recreation Board, in fact we put forward an alternative plan that created a park and recreation district independent of the Village and School District that had its own taxing authority. This would have allowed the residents to decide if they wanted to have high quality parks and recreation programming and take the district and Village politics out of it. You may remember when the school board dissolved the Park and Recreation Board and the district took on sole responsibility of providing recreation programming, the Village asked for a $5.00 reduction in fees in recognition of the taxes our residents already pay.

In regards to how Swanton is impacted, the Village residents are the only ones who pay taxes to support the park and its lighting, maintenance, and improvement. No other organization has exclusive use of the park or its facilities, except for free, other than school district, including its varsity sports. All entities must enter into a lease and pay for fair use including the shelters. Last year, the Village collected $1,450.00 in fees from other organizations and people who use our park facilities

It is fact that other park and recreation programs are supported by tax dollars and are not fully self sufficient as you stated, while they may not be done through a school district tax. This is one of the many reasons why the Village recommended a park and recreation district.

In response to Ms. Swisher’s comments on how much the district paid for maintenance totaling $3,900.00 and that no additional cost was incurred by the Village. The fact is the village collected in $53,060 in taxes, $1,450.00 in fees totaling $54,510 and spent $55,450.00 to keep the park open and safe. This cost does not include the water for the fields and increased police presence during times of use. Yes, the district has allowed the Village to use its facilities for fireworks at no cost; this is one night versus nine months of activity. The fireworks cleanup was done by volunteers.

These are the facts and I suggest that unless you do not want someone to respond and take issue with your opinions do not post them and encourage comment.
Deacon D. Dzierzawski
Village of Swanton

C Irmen said...

It is actually quite easy to block and thus prevent comments on a blog, or even to block certain individuals and IP addresses from commenting on a blog. You are allowed to comment like everyone else, Deacon, not because anyone agrees with you, but because I prefer civil discourse on a given subject so that anyone interested is able to see both sides of the issue being discussed, including myself.

You continue to ignore the fact that two Council members met with school board representatives several times to discuss Park & Rec, and you continue to ignore the fact that it was those two Council members who suggested and recommended the change that was ultimately taken by the school board. Is it possible that they changed their minds afterwards? Yes - it is possible. Yet they did make the recommendation. If you'd like, I will make available to you the digital recording I have of that final meeting so that you may hear it for yourself.

There are recreation districts in Ohio (and elsewhere) that include a tax levy for operations. I believe a local example would be the Sylvania recreation district. There are also successful recreation districts that do NOT include a tax levy for operations. The Anthony Wayne recreation district is an example. There are NO school districts with tax levies that support recreation districts. And I am thankful that Swanton Local School district is now - finally - in that latter category.

You neglect to mention, Deacon, that the change to the rec programs in Swanton had no impact on the Village. Your notes continue to give the false impression that somehow things changed on the Village side when the former Park & Rec program was dissolved. This is simply not true.

Under the old system, the Village collected taxes for village parks; the Village paid for maintenance, lighting, and improvement of the parks with those taxes. The school district used park facilities at no charge, and the Park & Rec programs also used the village parks at no additional fee. With the change to the new system, these things have remained the same. The Village continues to allow the school district to use the parks, and the Village continues to collect taxes to support the parks from Village residents only (like every other village park in the world).

Can you share with your readers exactly how - in your opinion - the current system changed things so that it is now radically different from how it was before and now causing undue harm to the Village and its residents?

Deacon said...

Civil discourse the foundation for all good and open democracies. While things did not substantially change last year in how the fees are paid or the programming available, it is my opinion that the majority (those not in the Village) are benefiting from the work and taxes of the minority (those in the Village). This was defined quite well by the participation in varsity and recreation programming supplied by the school district showing 52% from outside the village. It is incumbent of those in our positions (Village Council, School Board) to think ahead of what might happen and plan for contingencies such as fees being raised or one side paying more than another. If I remember correct these were many of the arguments posed in favor of reducing the income tax for the schools. The ramifications of our actions (School Board and Voters) are still being determined.
Two council members did participate in a discussion about the dissolution of the Park and Recreation Board along with the Mayor and Village Administrator. There was no agreement to the School Board’s decision to dissolve the Park and Recreation Board. It was out of this meeting that our recommendation to form an independent park district was based on. You may recall, or your digital recording will show, that the meeting we had regarding the current arrangement resulted in questions and requests being made to reduce the fees paid by the Village residents. As well as concern of our support for use by school sports without financial participation from the School District, in the form of fee reductions for recreation programming or other monetary support (beyond the already stated $3,900). The result of the discussion was a 3-3 tie with the Mayor casting the deciding vote, which is highly unusual for our council, demonstrating this was by no means a preferred course of action.
As a Village Councilman, I am charged with looking out for the best interests of my constituents. This includes advocating for fairness in taxes, services and representation. I was against the double taxation that was the old Park and Recreation system, Village residents paying for programming and upkeep, while non-village residents only paid for programming. I am against the double taxation of Village residents for fire services, the Village has a fire levy and most townships have one as well, which village residents have to pay as well as inside millage that Village residents pay to the townships with no services being delivered in return. I am against unchecked, unsupervised power and opinion and I am against government being intrusive in citizen’s lives. I am for open, honest, public discourse (of which this blog is one) on all matters that affect my constituents, I am for equity in tax policy, I am for the voice of the silent majority, I am for collaboration among governmental and nongovernmental bodies and I am for doing the right thing even when it is unpopular.
Deacon D. Dzierzawski
Village of Swanton

C Irmen said...

The meeting to which I referred, and of which I made a digital recording (with the full knowledge of all present) was held prior to the two separate meetings described by Deacon. (If you have trouble falling asleep some night, you can go back to my earlier blog postings on Park & Rec and read all about it.) During that meeting, all options available to us were discussed at length, with the establishment of a new recreation district being one option among several. After careful consideration of the pros and cons of each option, those two council members recommended the action that was ultimately taken by the school board.

The formal Village Council meeting to which Deacon refers was a joint meeting of Council and the School Board. I was in attendance that evening, and Deacon's comment on the split vote is accurate.

Prior to that, there was a discussion with the Mayor, Village Administrator, School Dist. Superintendent, School District Treasurer, two council members and two school board members - of which I was one. At that meeting, a couple of the Village representatives did attempt to get the school board to agree to a percentage reduction in fees for village residents' participation in the new rec program. It was also mentioned during that same meeting that these suggested reductions would only need to be applied to the upcoming fall sports, and not necessarily beyond - which was strange, given that the meeting was taking place in February and the fact that no fall sports were played on village park property. However - it was an election year . . .

At any rate, I was opposed to the proposed specialized fee structure, and my opposition was based on a very basic principle: fees are set based on criteria that is fair to everybody.

Three of your fellow council members agreed with me, as did your Mayor.

Their disagreement with your view does not mean they aren't looking out for their constituents - they also do what they think is best for their village residents, including what is "fair" and "right" and "equitable", etc. Their maturity grants them some measure of insight that you simply haven't had time to develop.

C Irmen said...

I rush to add: I was referring to POLITICAL insight. As Cheryl Swisher mentioned earlier, the school district and the Village interact and support each other in ways that are not always measured in dollars and cents.

And that is as it should be.

Deacon said...

At the risk of beating a dead horse and digressing into a conversation that has no value or merit. I will reiterate that my decisions and opinions are my own. My disagreement is not with them, but with what was posted on your blog. My decisions do not mean that my fellow councilmembers are not doing what they think is right.

I do take offense at the offhanded comment about my level of maturity, political or otherwise. I do believe school board is the first elected position you have ever held and that you were elected the same year I was. My experience and resume speaks for itself as well as my unwaivering resolve to speak my opinion on matters that affect my community.
Deacon D. Dzierzawski
Village of Swanton

C Irmen said...

Deacon, you and everyone else so inclined, are welcome to disagree with anything that I post on this blog. My blog reflects my opinions, and if your opinion is different, then please do not hesitate to share your viewpoint.

However, no one is "welcome" to call me a liar, by stating that I have posted "a huge falsehood" UNLESS that is what I have done.

I do my best to give my opinion on the facts. If I get those facts wrong, then I am grateful to anyone who would bring that error to my attention.