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Published: Wednesday, 5/12/2004

Swanton: Board awaits word on 'catastrophe' grant

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

SWANTON - Members of the Swanton board of education could learn next week whether the state will grant the district's request for a state grant.

Arlene Wilson, interim treasurer, said the request is expected to go before the state Controlling Board Monday, and the decision is expected that day. The school board meets at 7 p.m. Monday at Swanton High School.

Seeking the $265,764 grant, which does not have to be paid back to the state, is a step school officials have taken to offset a projected operating deficit. According to a financial forecast by the state auditor's office, the district faces an operating deficit of $669,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30.

The school board plans to borrow $1.1 million against the anticipated receipt of revenue from a 1.25 percent, five-year income levy. The Ohio Department of Taxation estimates the levy will bring about $132,000 in fiscal year 2005, and $2.2 million in each of the following fiscal years in which there is a full year of collection.

The forecasted deficit does not include funds the district owes to Ohio Mid-Eastern Regional Education Service Agency for health-care claims. The contract with OMERESA, a third-party administrator which processes and pays the claims, allows for claims in excess of contributions to be paid over a two or three-year period. The financial forecast report, which was prepared based on figures available by March 5, lists $500,000 owed to OMERESA. That figure expected to be lowered, Mrs. Wilson said.

Insurance plan options for the school year will be discussed with staff members as part of contract talks, officials said.

The contract for Swanton Education Association, which has 95 members, expires Aug. 31. The contract for Swanton Support Staff Association, which has eight members who include secretaries and building aides, expires June 30; 15 bus drivers are represented by Ohio Association of Public School Employees No. 618. Their pact has an economic reopener at the end of June.

According to the financial forecast, salaries are expected to decrease by $837,000 from fiscal year 2003. School officials cut $1.6 million from the budget last year, and more than 20 teaching positions were eliminated. An 11th-hour campaign by area residents that raised $107,000 in less than a week saved extracurriculars for winter and spring.

Contact Janet Romaker at:

jromaker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6006.



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