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Published: Friday, 3/30/2001

Perrysburg schools pull tax request off ballot

The Perrysburg board of education decided yesterday to remove a tax issue from the May 8 primary election ballot.

However, in an effort to avoid a budget shortfall next year, officials are considering several adjustments, such as setting up pay-to-play fees.

The board, during a special meeting, voted 3-2 to take the operating levy off the ballot.

Board members discussed several proposed cost-cutting measures but took no action. A decision is expected by the end of April, Superintendent Sharon Zimmers said after the meeting.

Board members John Kevern and Louis Weinstein, who are members of the superintendent's financial advisory committee, recommended postponing the levy request until after the June 15 deadline for the state legislature to submit a school-funding plan to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Board member Gary Hutchison voted in favor of the recommendation; board members Walt Edinger and Susan Williams voted no because of concerns about the amount of money the district might receive from the state.

In order to give the state time to act, adjustments in the school budget are being considered to avoid a shortfall next year and to maintain the high-quality educational programs currently offered, officials said.

Possible changes include: establishing pay-to-play or pay-to-participate fees for student activities, including sports, for the 2001-2002 school year; implementing a hiring freeze for new teacher positions districtwide; reducing building budgets by 25 percent; curtailing professional leave by at least 90 percent, and decreasing capital expenditures by more than 50 percent.

To increase revenue, the board might accept a limited number of open-enrollment students in grades 7 to 12. The district's portable classrooms could be sold.

If the state's school-funding plan provides Perrysburg with the revenue to continue the district's existing programs, adjustments would be reconsidered.

The adjustments, board members said, would be made on a temporary basis.

Preliminary estimates show that the adjustments could save $1 million to $1.3 million a year.

The proposal for the budget changes, according to Dr. Weinstein, carries a common theme: protect academics. Proposed adjustments, for instance, would not trim money budgeted for new books.

Removing the levy request from the ballot will cost the district some money, but the exact amount is not known yet, school treasurer James Larson-Shidler said.

Terry Burton, director of the Wood County board of elections, said the board of education acted in time to remove the issue from the ballot, but the district will be billed for some election supplies.

He guessed that the cost might run between $1,000 and $1,500.

Ballot cards for the levy already had been printed, Mr. Burton said, but “the actual issue pages were not yet printed.”

In other action, the number of board members serving on the search committee for a new superintendent was trimmed from three to two with Dr. Edinger voluntarily stepping down from the panel.

Dr. Weinstein said he erred in creating a committee with three members. The committee would have been required to comply with open-meeting laws, but now with two board members on the committee - Mr. Kevern and Mr. Hutchison - it can meet privately.

Dr. Weinstein said he wants the committee to meet within a week to set a timetable for its search. The committee, he said, is to report to board members at each of their meetings.

The board is beginning the search for a superintendent for the 2001-2002 school year.

Dr. Zimmers retires tomorrow, but she has been rehired to serve as superintendent from April 1 to Sept. 30.



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