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Published: Tuesday, 4/10/2012

Lake Local takes 1st step for 6.75-mill ballot issue

BY GABRIELLE RUSSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Lake school board President Tim Krugh, left,and Superintendent Jim Witt, right, listen to Treasurer Jeff Carpenter during a meeting to decide the size of a property tax levy. Lake school board President Tim Krugh, left,and Superintendent Jim Witt, right, listen to Treasurer Jeff Carpenter during a meeting to decide the size of a property tax levy.
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MILLBURY -- Lake Local Schools supporters volunteered at a phone bank, knocked on doors, and handed out pamphlets at football games, but in the end, voters still rejected a 4.75-mill operating levy in November's general election.

In the months since, school officials have voiced exasperation and anger at the school district's struggles to get a levy passed.

Now, as the board is seeking an even higher amount -- 6.75 mills -- school officials said they don't believe they can do much more campaigning.

"Last time we did as much as we could do," school board member Scott Swartz said.

The district announced $1.15 million in cuts last month that included closing Walbridge Elementary, eliminating full-time kindergarten, and laying off eight teachers.

"If the community wants to have a decent school district, it's up to them," school board president Tim Krugh said before the board took the first step Monday to get the 6.75- mill, three-year operating levy proposal on the Aug. 7 ballot.

"The board has exhausted its time and effort. It's got to be a grass-roots levy campaign," he said.

The board, meeting at the middle school, unanimously voted to ask the Wood County Auditor's Office to certify how much the levy would raise.

At its April 18 meeting, the board's next step is to send the ballot language to the board of elections.

Treasurer Jeff Carpenter said the 6.75-mill levy is estimated to generate $1.465 million a year. He could not provide a number on how much that would cost the owner of a $100,000 house.

The board initially considered another 4.75-mill levy, the same amount they asked for twice in 2011 and voters turned down, or a 5.75-mill levy.

But ultimately, for the rural district of about 1,750 students southeast of Toledo, a projected budget shows a $500,000 hole in early 2013, and the smaller millage amounts could mean additional cuts or financial struggles, officials said.

"The 4.75 ship has sailed," board member Eric Hirzel said.

In March when the board approved the cuts that included closing Walbridge Elementary and layoffs to be effective at the end of the school year, more than 100 people turned out.

At Monday's meeting, a handful sat in the audience.

Even if voters approve a levy in August, the district does not plan to reinstate the cuts, Mr. Krugh said.

Talk of another levy comes at a time when the district is rebuilding its high school from the 2010 tornado that killed seven people.

Money for the $25 million rebuilding project comes from the state, insurance dollars and a national contest sponsored by Kohl's -- funds that cannot be tapped for the operating costs.

The rebuilt high school is expected to open for the upcoming school year.

Contact Gabrielle Russon at: grusson@theblade.com or 419-724-6026.



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