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Published: Thursday, 10/19/2006

Anthony Wayne superintendent advises against new construction levy

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Before the Anthony Wayne School District asks its residents for support to construct a new high school, it should make sure it can pay for the buildings it already has.

That was the advice new Superintendent John Granger offered to the Board of Education after learning this week the district is heading for a budget deficit in fiscal 2008.

According to Interim Treasurer Joe Klein's five-year forecast, Anthony Wayne Schools will have a deficit of $278,295 in June of 2008, and will be $1,741,459 in the red the following year.

Faced with these grim numbers, Mr. Granger, who took over for retired Superintendent Randy Hardy on Sept. 1, said the board should avoid placing a bond issue on the ballot in May that would pay for the construction of a new, $56 million high school and improvements to existing buildings.

"I do not want to put our community in a situation where we ask them to build a new school we can't afford to operate," Mr. Granger said.

The superintendent's recommendation probably will put on hold a proposal for a 4-mill bond issue that was picking up steam because of the growing student population.

Anthony Wayne Schools has gained 179 new students this year and is predicting an increase of 2,000 students by 2015 to bring its total to 6,500.

Many school teachers and administrators, including Mr. Granger and Mr. Hardy, believe the space provided by Anthony Wayne Schools' six buildings soon will not be sufficient to properly educate the students.

Had a bond issue been placed on the ballot and passed in May, the new high school was anticipated to be open in 2009.

"I don't think it upsets any of the five of us to put the building project off for a little bit," Anthony Wayne School Board President Gary Roser said. "None of us like to look forward to a deficit, which is all the more reason for us to put off a new building for a while and gather more information."

Mr. Granger said his district lost $500,000 in annual taxes it was counting on when Toledo's Dana Corp. filed for bankruptcy in March.

The superintendent also said Anthony Wayne Schools hired $600,000 worth of new staff to accommodate its influx of students, but will receive just $283,894 in reimbursement from the state for the higher enrollment.

The district is projecting it will bring in $34,204,340 in revenues in 2008, but will spend $21,660,073 alone on staff salaries.

Mr. Granger said he was not "thinking about any cuts or reducing any programs" at this time, but said the district needs to pin down its revenues and find a way to make them exceed its expenditures. He will soon begin working on the issue with new Treasurer Kerri Johnson, who is leaving Gibsonburg Schools and will begin at Anthony Wayne later this month.

The superintendent said the district should receive help from a tax agreement with the Shops at Fallen Timbers that will bring in $783,585 in 2008, as well as property taxes from all the new residents moving into the area.

At the same time, Mr. Granger said, Anthony Wayne Schools will have to continue to study ways to be more efficient with its funds before it pursues expanding its infrastructure.

One necessary step will be to renew an emergency operating levy that generates $3 million annually and expires in 2008.

"The good news is, we're still in the black for next year," Mr. Granger said. "It would be better if we were addressing our facility concerns now, but there is no reason to panic."

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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