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Published: Friday, 10/7/2005

Lake Local tries new levy strategy

Lake Local Schools parents and officials are hoping a new strategy of warning residents about falling home values because of a cash-strapped school system after five consecutive levy failures will urge enough voters to say yes at the polls Nov. 8 for the sixth attempt.

More than 35 people met at Lake Middle School last night to make yard signs promoting the levy, collect flyers to distribute, and even telephone parents in the district who are not registered to vote.

"There is nothing magical to getting a levy passed, but sharing the information is very important," said John Geha of Geha Consulting Group, who has volunteered to work on the levy campaign. "We have to get the levy passed and show everyone that we are committed to Lake Township in the long term and that we want to take the burden off the homeowner."

The district is facing multimillion-dollar deficits following five consecutive levy defeats.

The Lake Local Board of Education decided in August to place an 8.74-mill operating levy on the November ballot - just 0.01 mill less than what the district sought unsuccessfully in the spring.

In May, voters defeated the 8.75-mill levy that would have raised $2 million, the fifth consecutive time that they rejected a funding request from the district.

If approved, the current levy would raise $1.8 million each year.

Kenda St. John, who has two children in the district, said parents she reached by phone last night were overwhelmingly in support of the levy, and nearly all promised to register and vote in favor of the tax.

"I think the people who have voted no don't know that we haven't had new operating money for so long," she said.

There are four forums at which Realtors will discuss how property values in the district have been affected.

They are: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lagniappa Hall, 401 North Main St., Walbridge; 6:30 p.m. Thursday at 6749 Wesley Drive.; 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at 1506 Circle Drive, and 6 p.m. Oct. 25 at Lake Middle School.

School board President Margene Akenberger said voters also will be encouraged to learn the district will soon have a new contract with its teachers.

The Lake Education Association voted to accept a two-year contract that was negotiated with the board of education during a mediation session late last month, Sam Radel, of the Ohio Education Association, said yesterday.

He said members will not receive a raise in either year, and the contract stipulates that those who were on pregnancy leave may come back to their jobs at the end of a grading period, instead of when a new semester starts. In addition, insurance premiums will remain the same, but deductibles will increase beginning Nov. 1.

The union represents about 90 members, including teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, media specialists, the athletic director, substitute teachers who work more than 60 days, nonsalaried tutors, and the school nurse.

Ms. Akenberger said the board will schedule a special meeting to vote on the contract.

If passed by the school board, the contract will be retroactive to Sept. 1 and will last until Aug. 31, 2007.

Lake teachers have been working without a contract this school year after the school board declined a union proposal to continue the terms of the final year of their old contract through the current year. The two sides agreed to such an extension for the 2004-2005 school year, but this year the school board demanded several concessions.



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