Bethel community seeks county input on development

Village, school district, and township come together to discuss options

The special meeting between the Bethel-Tate Board of Education, the Village of Bethel and township trustees brought a positive light to the financial difficulties of the current economy.

“The township has been very frugal with our money,” Tate Township trustee Howard Daugherty said. “The life squad has 100 runs a month. Our road crews have 39 miles of road to upkeep and our equipment is up to date. We have one deputy, we would like to have two.”

The township also holds pride in the fact that they passed their audit this year. Amy Wells, treasurer of Bethel-Tate schools, noted that the Bethel-Tate Schools also passed their audit.

The group verbalized their concerns about the expected budget cuts from Columbus next year.

Superintendent Jim Smith, noted once again that their school is state funded and until Columbus finalizes its budget it is still unknown what cuts will have to be made within the school system.

Mayor James Dick asked Smith which cuts would be first when the final decision came down from Columbus.

“The staff is what we cut first,” says Smith. “The teachers are the largest part of our budget. However, they are the most important. Our teachers are held sacred. We depend on them. If we have to we will do things like clean the buildings less. We are already moving people around to make the best use of the budget.”

Wells also commented on the budgeting issue.

“We have been adhering to a stick budget for a long time,” Wells said. “A lot of people don’t know that. It gets to a point, though, when the scales just tip. That is when it gets very difficult.”

Dick also inquired about the AP classes and how their loss would effect the open enrollment program that currently brings revenue to the school system.

“We are discussing some creative ideas like combining AP classes with other schools,” Smith said. “Our students could join classes in other schools. This year we have the money to get us through. The second year is going to be the toughest. There will be districts that will throw their keys on the table if the 20 percent cut goes through. The state is responsible for educating our children, so we will see what they are going to do.”

Dick commented that everything comes down to the money received from property owners. Currently, due to the economic crisis, there are many foreclosed homes in the area.

“We are also lacking new business development as well as lacking funds for new infrastructure,” Dick said. “We are currently trying for grants but that arena is very competitive. We keep getting knocked down by the competition.”

The consensus turned to the fact that without the support of the county, Bethel will not be able to attract new businesses or new home buyers.

Valerie Frondorf, a new resident, expressed her concerns at the meeting.

“We just moved here because of the school district and because we love the idea of living in a small town,” she said. “But from what I am hearing, is this a dying town?”

The answer from council, township and the school board was a resounding no.

“We just need to get the message to the county that we are tired of being ignored. Why Batavia? Why Richmond? Why are we not getting help from the county? We need to form a committee and become noticed,” Councilman Tim Cherry said. “We need to get our faces in there and get noticed.”

It was also discussed that members of the community should shop in the area as opposed to going to Eastgate. Various members and audience commented that there are not clothing stores in the area and they need to go out of town for many common items.

Russ Witley, a business owner and Council member in town for the past nine years had some positive things to say about the community.

“Council has a plan and it is a good one,” he said. “This village is going to come out of this crisis. We need to look ahead. There is money out there. We need to get out there and knock on some doors. This area needs a nice restaurant. Something that will draw people from outside of the community to Bethel. If we all work together we can pull through this.”

The gathered elected officials decided to form a committee that would include members of the school board, township and council. The committee will meet frequently and continue brainstorming and begin to put into action plans that would benefit Bethel, the township, and the school district.