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Published: Wednesday, 10/6/2004

Ottawa Hills: Residents asked to approve levy


Ottawa Hills residents are being asked to approve a 5.7- mill levy on Nov. 2 for school district operations.

The funds are needed, officials say, to keep up with the rising cost of operations while state funding has stayed the same or diminished somewhat.

Superintendent Gail Mirrow said passage is essential because about 70 percent of the system's budget is dependent on local property owners.

Voters last were asked to approve an operating levy in 2001 when they passed 1.9 mills. Last year, they approved a 1.5-mill levy for capital improvements.

Ms. Mirrow said all of the funds being sought in next month's election will be for payroll and benefits, supplies, utilities and other necessary expenses. None of the money will be used for capital improvements, which includes work on the recreational and athletic fields on school property.

Projections show that the school system is headed for a deficit of $800,000 in the 2005 fiscal year and that deficits will continue and increase in the future without increased income or a cut in expenses.

The system is slated to get about $1,720 in state aid per pupil this year, but anticipates that the per-pupil aid will decrease to about $1,650 in the next fiscal year.

The projection for 2009 is that the system will receive only $1,139 per pupil that year.

The superintendent said the increases in the costs of running the system are primarily inflationary.

Although there are no specific plans in place, Dr. Mirrow said that if the levy fails, there will be an adverse effect felt throughout the system.

She pointed to the staff and the wide-range of extracurricular activities which would feel the effect because cuts in expenses would have to be made to balance the system's budget.

The school system, she said, is one of the finest in Ohio and consistently is rated excellent, the highest category, in the state's annual Local Report Card. The junior/senior high school has been awarded the Blue Ribbon for three consecutive years by the Ohio Department of Education.

She noted that more than 95 percent of its graduates go on to college and that last year they were offered scholarships valued at a total of more than $3 million.

Passage of the levy will mean an annual cost to the owner of a $200,000 house of about $523. The levy if passed will raise approximately $1 million annually for the district.

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