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Published: Monday, 4/9/2001

Bryan schools make levy pitch

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BRYAN - School officials say they'll go door-to-door this month to talk to residents about the May 8 primary levy - a tax issue that would stave off a projected budget deficit.

Interim Bryan Superintendent Neil Weber said a group of school leaders, teachers, and levy committee members are ready to visit taxpayers at any time to answer questions about the five-year, 12.5-mill request.

“If there's a group out there that wants to talk with us, and if they don't have a place, we'll provide one,” Mr. Weber said. “We want to get the message out any way we can.”

The levy would raise an additional $3.56 million annually, money needed to offset a projected $1 million deficit in the 2,300-student district about 60 miles west of Toledo.

Mr. Weber said the increased revenue also would be used to establish an alternative, afternoon program in the high school, hire a full-time curriculum director, alleviate some administrators of multiple tasks, and add intervention programs for elementary school students.

He said about 1 mill of the levy would be put aside for the addition of six classrooms at Washington Elementary School and four new classrooms at Bryan High School.

The school district has not placed a tax issue on the ballot since 1992. It took voters three attempts then to pass a similar, 12.9-mill emergency request for the district.

Board president Tom Lingvai said officials want as many opportunities as possible to explain to taxpayers the district's imminent needs.

“We're trying to do as much as we can to inform the community, answer their questions,” Mr. Lingvai said. “Obviously in the case of any levy, you have to make your case, you have to prove your need, you have to be persuasive.”

Mr. Weber said the district's dwindling revenues have been discussed for years, and that board members first predicted a possible deficit about three years ago.

The issue came to a head last January when two school board members resigned, one of whom left out of frustration by what she said was a brewing financial crisis in the district and the failure of most of her colleagues to respond.

At the time, Sharon Brunicardi said that she opposed plans to spend money on building projects when the district faced a projected deficit by the middle of this year.

Mr. Weber said he has not fielded questions recently about the resignations. He also said the board delayed asking voters for money until now because the budget was constantly fluctuating because of changes in state funding.

Asking taxpayers to approve a levy is never easy, he said.

“You look at each year and you decide you can't wait any longer,” he said. “Sometimes, we wait too long but it seems if there's any kind of balance, even if it's a deficit situation, it's difficult [to show] a need.”



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