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Published: Wednesday, 12/6/2006

Board seeks lean budget for district

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Welker Welker
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Now that Eastwood Local School District officials know for certain that voters passed an income tax last month, they can concentrate on further reducing the district's expenditures and finding more ways to save money.

The Wood County Board of Elections told the district Nov. 28 that its five-year, 1 percent income tax had passed with 2,137 voters supporting it and 2,098 voting against it.

Yet even with the tax's approval, Superintendent Brent Welker said the district is working to reduce the district's bottom line by $500,000 this school year by deferring capital investments and holding strict limits on spending - including not reinstating field trips or professional development opportunities. They've also chosen not to fill vacant positions.

And district officials have begun to work on finding ways to cut and save more than $700,000 next school year.

"This levy does not make us status quo," Mr. Welker said. "This levy was not enough to allow this district to operate at the same level of funding we have been. We still have financial issues. We're still going to need to reduce our total bottom line."

He said the community can expect to see a proposed spending plan for next school year at Eastwood school board's January meeting.

After the proposal is presented, Mr. Welker said there will be ample time for both the school board members and the community to weigh in on the suggestions.

"We'll give the community an opportunity to digest what we're looking at doing, and at the February meeting, the community can give their thoughts and feelings on what we're doing," the superintendent said.

Before he votes on any spending plan, board President Denis Helm said he will be listening to what the community thinks should be done to save money.

"The community will have a large say as to how we achieve that," he said. "But we'll be looking at every possible way to save money."

District officials are doing what they can to keep the budget in line because that's what they promised voters they'd do. They're also hoping to keep a levy for operations off the ballot until at least 2010, Mr. Helm said.

"Now that promise has a caveat because obviously there are so many things that could happen, but we're going to endeavor to do that," he said. "That's our goal."

But because the levy did pass, Mr. Welker said the school board will rescind two resolutions it made at its October board meeting, which board members also promised they'd do if the community supported the levy.

One resolution eliminated a shopping list of 28 items - most of them positions and programs that do not directly relate to state-required programs.

The other instituted participation fees for middle and high school students to pay for the programs.

Board members plan to rescind those motions at their next meeting on Dec. 18.



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