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Published: Wednesday, 4/20/2005

Maumee: Necessity of school levy pushed

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Maumee school officials and parent volunteers are reaching out with mailings and phone calls to inform voters about the school levy on the May 3 ballot.

The district is requesting a new 5.9-mill continuing operating levy that would collect almost $3.2 million in 2006. The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 house about $180 annually.

Superintendent Greg Smith said the levy is needed because of reductions in state funding for public schools and legal changes that decreased the tax revenue the district collects from businesses.

"Since early 2003 to date we are about $4 million below where we thought we'd be with revenue," he said. "This is a loss of revenue issue."

Mr. Smith said the district has a total annual operating budget of about $25 million. The district reduced its budget last year by about $1.2 million, mainly by not hiring new staff to replace retiring teachers. Officials plan to save $550,000 this year by not replacing about half a dozen retiring teachers.

"Enrollment has been decreasing, so we've been able to lose teachers without increasing class size," Mr. Smith said. "This year's reductions will move up class sizes a little bit, but we have no other choice."

A few dozen parent volunteers are doing an informal phone campaign to explain the levy request to voters, and the district last week mailed a flyer with basic facts about the levy to all school district residents.

Maumee school voters last went to the polls in May, 2003, when they approved a 3.2-mill continuing operating levy. They also approved a 5.2-mill bond levy to fund renovation and new construction of school facilities and a 1-mill operating levy to cover the costs of operating the additional facilities.

"Maumee has always supported its schools, and I don't anticipate the May 3 election being any different," said Brent Welker, a parent volunteer supporting the levy campaign. "For me, if the additional levy expenses are what it takes for Maumee to continue offering the same quality of educational experiences, then it's worth it."

Mr. Smith said many residents have asked why money from the bond levy, which is raising about $42 million for construction and renovation expenses, cannot be used to help cover operating costs.

"Legally, when you vote for a bond issue for construction, those dollars cannot be used for operations," he said.

Based on current projections, passage of the levy on May 3 would balance the school budget through 2009. However, Mr. Smith said anymaumee changes in state funding could alter those estimates and force the district to ask voters for more funding sooner than expected.

"We can't control so many factors that affect our revenue," he said.

Officials are sure that without the new levy, the district will face a budget deficit by the end of the 2006-07 school year. If the levy fails, the district would likely have to make budget cuts, Mr. Smith said, although he is not sure how spending would be reduced.



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