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Published: Wednesday, 4/20/2005

Vanlue hedges bets on tax issue

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

VANLUE, Ohio - Vanlue Local Schools Superintendent Tim Kruse doesn't want to appear pessimistic about the levy before voters May 3, but he knows he's got to watch every penny.

The school board agreed Monday night to place a 6.5-mill emergency levy on the Aug. 2 ballot if the same request fails in May. Mr. Kruse said the move saves the time and expense of having a special school board meeting for that purpose after the election.

"It saves the district a few hundred bucks,'' he said. "For all intents and purposes, we expect it to pass.''

The tiny, 309-student district also is asking voters to increase the district's 1 percent income tax to 2 percent.

The two requests, which would generate a combined $685,000 a year, are crucial to the survival of the district, which is one of the smallest in the state.

"The taxpayers have to decide, do they want this district to continue? That's the bottom line,'' Mr. Kruse said. "They have fought tough times before, and they have always managed to come through. We're counting on the loyalty of the Vanlue community to say we want to keep our school.''

He said that when taxpayers decide the expense of keeping the school operating is no longer worth bearing, the district will be forced to look at consolidation with another district or being divided up and parceled out among neighboring districts like Findlay, Arcadia, New Riegel, and Riverdale.

Last year, Vanlue cut five positions, and this month, the board agreed to reduce its all-day, everyday kindergarten to a three-day-a-week program.

It also decided to eliminate a high school work and family life teacher, cut one of two teacher aides, and combine the transportation supervisor's job with the building and grounds supervisor's.

The 6.5-mill levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $199.07 a year.

At the northern end of Hancock County, Van Buren Local Schools are seeking a three-year, 5.5-mill emergency levy that would generate $1,275,000 a year for the growing, 950-student district. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $168 a year.

Superintendent Tim Myers said Van Buren residents pay the lowest school taxes in the county because of the district's strong business and industrial base.

With the increased use of tax abatements and tax increment financing, though, the district has been realizing less revenue from those sources, he said.

"Even though it looks like we're growing, that money is not coming to us,'' he said.

The board last week said that if the levy fails, it will cut busing to state minimums, establish a pay-to-participate plan for extracurricular activities, and cut 2.5 teachers, a guidance counselor, and two teacher's aides for a total savings of $241,154.

The only other district on the ballot in Hancock County is Arcadia, which is asking voters to replace a five-year, 1.5-mill permanent improvement levy.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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