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Published: Tuesday, 7/19/2005

Schools seek to replace funds cut by Ohio

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Officials of two of the largest school districts in Ottawa and Sandusky counties say changes in state tax policy are a big reason they're asking voters to approve additional revenue next month.

In the Benton-Carroll-Salem Local School District, Superintendent Fred Schnoor points to a shift in how the state distributes personal property tax receipts from nuclear power plants as pushing his district to seek a five-year, 5.3-mill emergency operating levy Aug. 2. The change is costing the district in central Ottawa County $1.5 million a year.

"The levy only replaces what we lost," Mr. Schnoor said.

In the Clyde-Green Springs Exempted Village Schools, Superintendent Todd Helms says the agreement by Gov. Bob Taft and state lawmakers to phase out tangible personal property taxes will cost his district at least $1.3 million a year. Clyde-Green Springs, which includes a Whirlpool Corp. plant and several other industrial employers, is asking voters to pass a five-year, 5.9-mill emergency operating levy, in part to make up for that revenue loss.

"The state cuts have been detrimental for us," Mr. Helms said. "Governor Taft's budget that he has put in place now has been a crusher for us."

Both districts are returning to the ballot with issues that voters rejected in May. Both districts have reduced their teaching staffs through attrition and made other spending cuts, and both have persuaded their unionized teachers to accept a wage freeze for the coming school year.

In the case of Benton-Carroll-Salem, which has about 2,100 students, the wage freeze will continue into 2006-07.

Mr. Schnoor said his district's budget, about $17 million, is lower than it was six years ago. The school board eliminated 3 1/2 teaching jobs this year. "They were not fluff," he said. "They're going to hurt us. Test scores are going to start to suffer."

The district has a budget carryover of about $2.5 million but projects it will begin running deficits in two years without additional revenue.

"Then we're in big trouble, and we don't want to do that," Mr. Schnoor said.

Benton-Carroll-Salem's levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 house $167 a year.

Mr. Helms said the Clyde-Green Springs district last got new revenue from the voters in May, 1993. The school system serves about 2,400 students with a budget of $16.4 million a year.

The superintendent said the district has provided quality education and prudent fiscal management over the past 12 years, something he hopes will persuade voters that the system needs and deserves more money. The 5.9-mill levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $181 a year and raise $1.3 million a year - making up for the lost tangible personal property revenue.

"We've been rated an effective school district for seven consecutive years," Mr. Helms said. "We spend less per pupil than 98 percent of the school districts in Ohio."

The district eliminated three teaching jobs and several other positions this year, and cuts in extracurricular activities are possible if a levy isn't passed this year, Mr. Helms said.

In Erie and Huron counties, the lone district on the ballot is the Monroeville Local Schools with a five-year, 7-mill operating levy renewal. The tax, first passed in 1995, raises $396,000 a year and costs the owner of a $100,00 home $143.02 annually.

In Seneca County, the Seneca East Local School District is requesting renewal of a five-year, 1 percent income tax first passed in 2000. The tax raises about $750,000 for the Attica-based school district.

Contact Steve Murphy at:

smurphy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.



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