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Published: Wednesday, 10/6/2004

Officials warn of cuts if levy fails

Washington Local schools will face a more than $10 million shortfall in four years and be forced to cut more than $8.5 million in permanent improvements if its Nov. 2 levy is rejected by voters, school officials said.

Board member Steve Zuber said the district must make some "tough choices" if the 3.9-mill levy fails.

"You hate to cut any programs, because we have a good district and we want to keep all the programs intact," Mr. Zuber said. "I hate to cut sports, and I don't like pay-to-play because a lot of people can't afford it."

The district's request is for a dual-purpose tax levy: a single ballot issue for both permanent improvements and operations. If the 3.9-mill measure is approved, 2.9 mills will go to the general operating fund and 1 mill for capital improvements. The continuing levy would cost $119 a year for the owner of a home valued at $100,000, said Jeffery Fouke, district treasurer.

"We will have a deficit in 2007, and this is helping us eliminate that," Mr. Fouke said. "Our revenue is declining and, obviously, our expenses are continuing to grow.

The permanent improvement plans include to acquire portable classrooms for Greenwood Elementary at a cost of about $700,000, replacing ones that are about 30 years old; remodeling the auditorium at Whitmer High School for $1.9 million, and replacing the district's phone and voice mail system for $625,000.

District voters in November, 2000, passed a 5.2-mill dual-purpose levy that collected 4 mills for general operations and 1.2 mills for capital improvements.

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