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Published: 10/20/2004

Lake Township: Lake Local school levy leads ballot

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lake Township voters have a full ballot on Nov. 2, leading off with a proposed income tax that would benefit the Lake Local School district; a request to renew a fire levy; and a request for certain voters to allow a travel center to sell alcoholic beverages on Sundays.

Lake Local Schools is asking for a five-year, 1.25 percent income tax to avoid a general-fund deficit of more than $2 million by June, 2006, so the district can "continue to operate as close to normal as possible," said Lake Superintendent Paul Orshoski.

The district, in anticipation that voters will approve the income tax, reinstated some clubs, sports, and programs costing about $700,000 that it cut after a three-year, 11-mill property tax levy was defeated on Aug. 3 by a 2-to-1 margin.

After the defeat, about 2,270 residents pledged to approve an income tax on Nov. 2 through a petition drive. The income tax would raise about $2 million a year, or $500,000 less than the rejected 11 mills.

Programs reinstated on the hope that the income tax will pass, are a breakfast program, high school elective courses, a tutoring service, drug testing for athletes, and reading recovery and intervention specialist programs. The district reinstated four custodial positions, a secretary, a high school social studies teaching position, and an elementary school counselor.

The board let stand about $425,000 in cuts, including art, pep, and library clubs; freshman cheerleading; elementary school sports programs, band, and chorus; and an assistant marching band position.

If the income tax passes, the district wouldn't receive full collection for 18 months after its approval, according to Lake Local Treasurer Nancy Heckman.

"The biggest problem is how slow the money is going to come in," she said, adding that the district would borrow up to 50 percent of the tax if passed by voters. "We would have to do that in order to get through the next two years."

If the income tax fails, Mr. Orshoski said the board plans to look for more tightening measures and may implement pay-to-play fees.

"If it fails, it just brings us that much closer to having the state come in and take over fiscal control of our schools," he said. "I would rather have the district run locally by the school board."

But for the remainder of this year, Mr. Orshoski said the sports and extracurricular activities the school board reinstated are safe because the district cannot contractually overturn the board's decision.

Lake Township voters will decide whether to renew a five-year, 1-mill levy for fire protection that generates $216,000 a year to operate township fire stations in Walbridge and Millbury, said Mike Buzza, assistant fire chief for Lake Township Station No. 1.

He said the township's fire department will use the money to fund firefighters' salaries, fire equipment, building maintenance, and training.

"If it doesn't pass, I imagine the trustees would have to look into measures to save money," Mr. Buzza said. "But if it passes, we'll be able to operate at our current level of service."

The renewal costs the owner of a $100,000 house about $29 a year, said Wood County Auditor Michael Sibbersen.

"This levy will go a long way to maintain our personnel and equipment and structures," said Township Trustee Richard Welling.

The fire protection levy was last approved in 1999 as a replacement levy and will expire at the end of the year. However, the township will continue to receive money from it in 2005, and because the board chose to approve a renewal levy for this year's ballot, the current tax paid by township residents will not increase.

The Pilot Travel Center, 3484 Libbey Rd. in Perrysburg, is asking voters in Lake Township Precinct 390 to approve selling beer, wine, and mixed beverages Sundays between the hours of 10 a.m. and midnight, said co-manager Randy Stoll. "The reason we're doing this," he said, "is that we've had so many requests for it."



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