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Published: Friday, 4/26/2002

School levy in Sandusky draws critics

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

SANDUSKY - Voters in the Sandusky City School District are being asked May 7 to approve a 4.9-mill operating levy officials say is needed to stave off a $1.5 million deficit and a long list of budget cuts.

The levy would cost the owner of a $90,000 home about $135 a year.

If approved, the levy would generate about $2.2 million a year for a continuing period. Voters rejected an identical request in November by a slim 2,444-2,293 count.

Superintendent Rick Sulewski said the board hopes to convey to voters that the district has been improving and needs adequate funding to continue its climb.

“Four years ago, our district was identified by the state as a district in academic emergency,” Mr. Sulewski said. “We have rapidly come out of that and are now a district of continuous improvement. ... Our whole focus is we want to continue the progress so our students can continue to achieve at high levels.”

The levy request has opponents. A group called Citizens for Responsible Funding formed last month to campaign against the tax hike. “We're wasting taxpayers' funds,” said Leslie Hall, a parent and leader of the opposition group. “They don't have money for textbooks or desks, but they have money to continuously add administrative positions, and these new administrative positions range anywhere from $75,000 on up plus benefits.”

Mr. Hall also criticized the district's practice of failing to seek multiple price quotes on purchases or services unless the transaction exceeds $25,000, which by law must be publicly bid.

And his group is annoyed by what he called “an ever-growing arrogance to parental involvement” in the schools.

“If parents approach the schools with a problem, they're basically seen as outcasts,” he said. “They are shunned. They're viewed as a problem instead of working together to solve the problems.”

Without the new tax dollars, Mr. Sulewski said the 4,300-student district will be looking at a deficit of $1.5 million next year and a $2.4 million the following year.

“We put a plan together that if this levy does not pass we have to trim our budget for next school year by about $1 million,” Mr. Sulewski said.

The cuts would be across the board, he said, including $601,000 in personnel, $300,000 in classroom supplies and textbooks, and about $104,000 in extracurricular activities. Six teachers, two administrators, a secretary, and three classroom aides would be eliminated under the plan, which was approved by the school board in February.

“If this levy doesn't pass, it doesn't mean we don't need the levy. It just means we have to balance the financial equation for next school year, but the need for revenue will continue,” Mr. Sulewski said.

He pointed out that it's been six years since the district received additional operating funds. Voters approved a 4.9-mill levy in 1996.

A mill is $1 of tax on each $1,000 of assessed property value.



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