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Published: Friday, 4/16/2004

Lake schools weigh levy options

The Lake Local Board of Education took the first step toward an Aug. 3 levy request last night by directing its treasurer to seek certification of the district's tax valuations and information about the impact of four levy options.

The proposals include operating levies of 9.75, 10.75, and 11.75 mills, and an emergency levy to collect $2.5 million per year. For the first three, Nancy Heckman is to ask the Wood County auditor to determine the amount of revenue each millage would provide. For the fourth, the levy would provide a fixed annual amount, with the county auditor to provide an estimate of the tax rate that would be needed to collect it.

Ms. Heckman told the school board she expects a response within a week, though the board is not expected to decide which levy to propose until its next regular meeting, whose date already had been changed to May 17 because its normal date, May 20, is the filing deadline for the Aug. 3 ballot.

Any such levy's duration also will be determined during the May 17 meeting.

Lake now collects levies totaling 48.1 mills, though because of property revaluations, the current net value of its levies is just 30.52 mills, according to district administrators.

School officials estimate that if current budget trends continue, the district will be $847,000 in the red by the end of the 2004-2005 school year and more than $10 million down by mid-2008.

The projected shortfalls, and the need to cut services sharply if more taxes aren't enacted, are blamed on declining revenue and steeply rising insurance and medical expenses.

Last night, the school board approved a one-year extension of its labor contract with the Lake Education Association that provides no cost-of-living raises for district teachers and administrators, though those staff members who would qualify for pay increases based on advancing educational or experience thresholds would still receive them. The union's contract had been scheduled to expire at the end of August.

"This is very noble on the part of our teachers," board member Ted Hubler said. "It's going to help our bottom line very much."

The board then passed Mr. Hubler's motion that it forgo the $80-a-meeting stipend to which members are legally entitled during fiscal 2005.

Earlier, the board approved a resolution notifying teachers who coach sports, advise clubs, or hold other such supplemental or extended-service jobs that those positions will not be renewed for 2004-2005, except for new-teacher mentors and similar positions required by law. The nonrenewal decision may be reviewed after the Aug. 3 election.



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