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Published: Wednesday, 11/16/2005

Levy loss leaves Lake hopeful but strapped for '06

Dave Shaffer, Lake High School s director of athletics, says he has a renewed sense of hope in the levy s defeat because the margin of no votes was slimmer than in previous attempts.
Dave Shaffer, Lake High School s director of athletics, says he has a renewed sense of hope in the levy s defeat because the margin of no votes was slimmer than in previous attempts.
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After voters shot down the Lake Local School District's sixth consecutive funding request last week, many students, faculty, and administrators said they were left with a renewed sense of hope.

Unfortunately, they also were left with a district that is unable to collect any new money in 2006, which does nothing to head off a looming $1.5 million deficit by the end of 2008.

Many affiliated with the district said they're looking on the bright side because the margin between "yes" and "no" votes was smaller than it has been in the last five elections in which the district was asking for new operating money.

The most recent levy - a five-year emergency property tax levy equivalent to 8.74 mills - was rejected on Nov. 8 by 52.4 percent of the voters, with 2,218 voting against it and 2,011 voting in favor of it, according to unofficial results.

"I thought it was very close and very promising," said Dave Shaffer, director of athletics. "It renewed some energy, seeing the closer results, and made you feel much more optimistic."

To discuss options and which direction they see the district heading in the future, members of the Lake Local Board of Education called a workshop meeting last night that lasted more than two hours.

While no decisions were made during the brainstorming session, board members agreed that February would not be a good time to go back to the voters with another levy. They said May would be the best bet because the Wood County auditor would have certified the results of this year's property reappraisal by the time the board would have to decide on how much millage to certify.

Another idea was to bus all students to school because Transportation Supervisor Tammy Tapley said state reimbursement might outweigh what the district has been saving by going to state minimums for busing - something that was meant to be a short-term solution to save money.

Other ideas were to offer teachers early retirement incentives to reduce what the district is paying in wages and benefits or to shut down the district's Millbury building that houses the superintendent's and treasurer's offices.

Board members shied away from the possibility of additional cuts, including reducing the number of teachers to state minimums.

"Minimums to me are substandard," board President Margene Akenberger said. "I will not settle for that. I think we should be outraged if we have to go to state minimums for education. We can't keep sucking the life out of our schools and our kids."

While they're holding onto optimism that the next levy will win voter approval, several students and faculty members agreed that cuts are not the way to save money until then.

"If they cut anything else in the high school, they literally have to gut our curriculum," said Jim Bartosky, a Lake High School social studies teacher. "If they want to make cuts, you have to expect that we're going to offer an inferior education."



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