BYESVILLE, Ohio — “If we are not moving forward, we are falling behind.” A frequent comment during Monday night’s meeting at Byesville Elementary School, as the Rolling Hills Local School District hosted another public meeting on the upcoming school levy vote.

Around 50 people attended the fourth in a series of public meetings, held to inform the public about the 5.42-mill levy that will go before the voters of the district on May 2. There has been much discussion about the levy around the community and on the internet, both pro and con.

School officials stress that the state is offering to pick up 60 percent of the $50.2 million project, in what is being called a “one-shot deal.” The project calls for renovations to the high school, construction of a middle school addition to MHS and construction of a new K-5 building. In addition, plans call for renovations to the football facility, softball and baseball fields and construction of a sports auxiliary complex.

It is these sports-related elements that have become a lightning rod for complaints and concerns from some members of the community, who feel that voter money should be spent on academics and not on sports or other extracurricular-related items. School officials counter, pointing out the importance of extracurricular activities, including sports, not only for the individual student but for the district.

During Monday night’s meeting, it was pointed out that 92 percent of the total construction funds will be going toward academics, while the remaining two percent is devoted to extracurricular endeavors. School officials also pointed out that, in addition to educational advantages, new buildings will save approximately $80,000-a-year on energy costs.

Byesville Mayor Jay Jackson and Village Administrator Brennan Dudley addressed the crowd, saying that they, as a public officials, would not voice their opinion pro or con, on the levy; however, they went on to point out the strong connection between a strong local educational system and economic development. Former Byesville Mayor Don Gadd voiced his support for the levy as a private citizen, but also as one who has seen first hand that a solid school system with up-to-date facilities can help influence a potential business to move to the area.

A number of teachers spoke, informing the audience of the changes in teaching techniques over the years and how important the idea of collaboration has become. They pointed out that such techniques are difficult in all buildings, due to the lack of space.

School officials announced that they have launched a new website: www.coltlevy.com. This site has artist renderings of what some of the new facilities may look like. Also, there is information on the levy, a link to the Guernsey County Auditor’s Office website for people to see what their taxes would be with the levy and contact information for additional questions and comments.

In closing, school officials urged the public to consider the alternatives when voting. If the levy fails, the district will continue to “do the best we can with what we have”; however, it was pointed out that any future construction levy will be costlier and have a heavier local match, in a situation where “more gets less”.

Election Day is Tuesday May 2. Polls open statewide at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.