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Published: Friday, 10/18/2002

Perrsyburg superintendent, resident have spirited exchange at meeting

A talk about the financial condition of Perrysburg City Schools and its request for more tax money Nov. 5 grew tense last night as opponent Ron Soldwish interrupted others commenting on education and the conduct of the levy campaign.

A woman among 20 people at a town meeting at Fort Meigs Elementary School defended her desire for smaller class sizes at the elementary school when Mr. Soldwish turned to her.

“Oh, eight months a year [in a classroom with 29 students],” he said. “Isn't it tough?”

A man sitting nearby shot back at him, “Quit butting in when she is talking and have some respect.”

Other interruptions punctuated the 90-minute session. Mr. Soldwish and Superintendent Mike Cline engaged in a spirited exchange about people on a committee raising money for the levy campaign and canvassing for supporters.

Mr. Soldwish faulted the levy committee's recent financial report. Dr. Cline replied the problem was a technical one and can be corrected in a new report. The issue involved small bills and loose change listed as “other” rather than the correct term “anonymous,” school officials said.

“If you are going to have people promote a levy, make sure they are going to be around to pay for it later,” Mr. Soldwish said.

Classroom sizes have risen and funding cuts made after the defeat in May of a 6.9-mill operating levy. Deeper cuts, including elimination of all sports and severe curtailment of bus transportation, have been threatened unless voters approve a two-year, 5.9-mill emergency levy on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Mr. Soldwish, when asked his opinion on ideal class size, replied: “[Schools] should be run like a business - having teachers not asking for raises.”

Former school board member Gary Hutchison worried that levy supporters were out of bounds to use student events to promote the levy, such as the comments made at last Friday night's Perrysburg High School football game against Southview High.

“My gripe is that it opens up a can of worms,” he said. “My hope is that the levy does pass.”

Opponents of the levy would be allowed to address that same student activities, Dr. Cline said, and extended the offer to Mr. Soldwish.

“I don't want to go there and do that,” Mr. Soldwish said.

For better or worse, Ohio's funding of education turns on local residents deciding the fate of tax issues to fund them, Dr. Cline said.

“Some people want a lesser school district and some people want a better school district,” he said. “I think that is where the battleground is.”

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