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Districts push 26 fund bids


The exterior of Indian Hills Elementary School in Rossford shows damage that will be repaired if the 2-mill continuing levy on the ballot next week is passed.

lisa dutton / blade Enlarge

The large number of requests is blamed on the growing number of districts squeezed by rising expenses and cuts in state aid.

Across northwest Ohio, 19 school districts have 26 money requests on Tuesday's ballot, contributing to the state's biggest special election for school issues in two decades.

Statewide, 90 districts are on the ballot with 103 tax issues. School officials say the large number of requests reflects the growing number of districts squeezed by rising expenses and cuts in state aid. Many are appealing to voters as the last hope for avoiding devastating reductions in academic and extracurricular programs.

"Our state funding has really come to a halt, and any increases are going to have to come from our voters," said Cynthia Lemmerman, superintendent of the Fostoria City Schools, where a 9.63-mill operating levy is before voters.

Like many districts, Fostoria has cut spending this year (by more than $1 million), reduced academic programs, and laid off employees to balance the books. Without more revenue or deeper cuts, the school district projects a deficit of $500,000 in 2004-05, with the red ink worsening over the next several years.

Even though voters strongly rejected the 9.63-mill levy in March, Ms. Lemmerman said the district, which serves students in Hancock, Seneca, and Wood counties, had no choice but to try again.

A northwest Ohio district has the distinction of placing the most tax requests on the special-election ballot. Officials in the Continental Local Schools have combined nine levies totalling 26.55 mills into five replacement issues.

The total millage would be the same, but the new levies together would raise an extra $389,000 a year for the Putnam County district. The Continental school system has had a budget deficit for four years despite cutting $1 million in spending over the past year, Superintendent Sandra Muir said.

In Wood County, voters in the Lake Local Schools face one of the biggest property tax requests in the state. Superintendent Paul Orshoski said the three-year, 11-mill emergency operating levy is needed to avoid layoffs, reduced class offerings, and other spending cuts totaling $1.2 million.

Rossford Exempted Village Schools, also in Wood County, have a 2-mill continuing levy on the ballot to improve and maintain facilities. James Rossler, Jr., district treasurer, said the levy will raise $783,644 a year and cost $61 a year for the owner of a home valued at $100,000.

Plans include replacing windows and lighting at Eagle Point Elementary; replacing the parking lot and gym roof at Glenwood Elementary; repairing exterior walls at Indian Hills Elementary; renovating the auditorium at Rossford High school, and renovating the concession building and rest rooms at the high school football stadium.

In the Huron City Schools, the defeat of two previous levy requests is part of the reason the Ohio Department of Education declared the district to be in a fiscal emergency this spring. The Erie County district is the only school system in northwest Ohio to be under that classification, which includes oversight by a five-member commission appointed by state officials.

To try to overcome a projected operating deficit of $1.6 million, the district is going back to voters with the same 6.9 mill operating levy that lost by 250 votes in March, plus a 1.35-mill renewal levy.

"We need to pass this levy. There's nowhere else to cut," Mr. Fox said. "We have to have new revenue and the only way we can get new revenue is by voters approving it."

Here is a listing by county of other suburban and regional districts with levy requests on the Tuesday ballot include:

Allen County: Delphos City School District, five-year, 5.5-mill operating levy.

Erie County: Perkins Local School District, 6.9-mill permanent operating levy.

Fulton County: Swanton Local School District, 6.96-mill, three-year operating levy renewal.

Hancock County: Liberty-Benton Local Schools, 3.3-mill, five-year emergency levy and 5.3-mill, five-year emergency levy renewal.

Henry County: Patrick Henry Local, 5.9-mill, five-year operating levy.

Huron County: Monroeville School District, 3.6-mill, five-year renewal for operations; Willard City Schools, 5.7-mill, five-year renewal for operations.

Ottawa County: Genoa Area School District, 5.25 mill continuing levy for operations.

Paulding County: Antwerp Local School District, permanent 0.75 percent income tax for operations.

Sandusky County: Bellevue City School District, 1.85-mill, 28-year bond issue for construction and renovation; Woodmore Local School District, 4.9-mill, five-year operating levy.

Seneca County: Tiffin City Schools, 5-mill, five-year operating levy.

Williams County: Millcreek-West Unity Local School District, permanent, 1 percent income tax for operations; North Central Local School District, 4.9-mill, five-year levy for operations and permanent 1 percent income tax for operations.

Contact Steve Murphy at: or 419-724-6078.

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