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Published: Friday, 8/13/2004

Lake Local rallies around income-tax drive

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

WALBRIDGE - It wasn't a football game or even a band practice, but Danielle Zeiler was happy just to play the flute with the rest of the Lake High School band.

"It's exciting," she said, standing in Loop Park yesterday during a rally organized by proponents of an income tax for Lake Local Schools. "It gives me hope.

"Just listening to everybody play, it gives me hope," she said.

Students and parents hope pledges of support for a proposed ballot issue will persuade the school board to restore extracurricular activities and other programs cut after last week's defeat of an 11-mill property levy.

Since last weekend, volunteers have been collecting signatures on a petition that asks the school board to place an income tax of 1 to 1.25 percent on the Nov. 2 ballot. Starting at 5 p.m., more than 300 parents, students, and other residents gathered in the park at Dixon and Guy streets for a pep-style rally. It included performances by the high school band and cheerleaders and free hot dogs and ice cream cones.

band and cheerleaders and free hot dogs and ice cream cones.

Mark Timmons, a Walbridge councilman leading the petition drive, told a crowd of more than 200 people that nearly 1,800 signatures had been collected by Wednesday night.

He estimated that canvassers had collected at least 100 additional signatures by late yesterday afternoon and said his group expected to present at least 2,000 signatures to the school board at a special work session tonight.

That show of support, he said, should persuade the school board to restore sports, clubs, and academic programs. The board made the cuts last week to save $1.2 million and keep the district out of a budget deficit next year.

"It's all coming back, and that's what we've been fighting for," Mr. Timmons told his cheering audience. "What we're wanting everyone to do is get a sheet and go somewhere. Get two signatures. Get 10. Get 20. . . . If you get one signature, I want it."

After Mr. Timmons finished speaking, the Lake band broke into a spirited version of the Flyer fight song as students clapped and sang along.

"I'm excited," said Danielle White, who plays drums in the band. "It feels like my first football game, but without the team."

Ms. White and other students acknowledged they're nervous about the board's upcoming decision. After hearing a report from petition drive organizers at tonight's meeting, which begins at 8 o'clock at the board office in Millbury, the board members are expected to vote Monday night whether to rescind the budget cuts and bet on the passage of a tax in November.

For some students, the board's decision will determine whether they stay at Lake.

Brad A. Lewis, a member of the Lake High School golf team, said he has arranged to move in with his father in Sylvania and attend Northview High School if the Lake board doesn't restore sports. But he's hoping it doesn't come to that.

"I grew up with these kids, and I want to graduate with them," he said, motioning to a group of friends.

Northview, he added, "is a nice school, but it's definitely not home."

Contact Steve Murphy at:

smurphy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.



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