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Published: Wednesday, 5/4/2005

Most districts in region get happy news

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The likelihood of significant cuts in classes and the promise from teachers to forgo their annual raises helped convince voters in the North Central Local School District to approve a new tax levy.

The Williams County district was among several in northwest Ohio where voters approved issues on yesterday's ballot.

North Central voters approved a new 7.9-mill, five-year operating levy, the same levy that was defeated in February with a 60 percent "no" vote. Unofficial results yesterday showed the measure passed by about 57 percent.

Previously, teachers in the district vowed to give up a 3 percent salary increase next year, saving the district $91,000 per year. The levy will generate about $640,000 a year.

"It's a big step forward for us," Superintendent Stephen Lewis said. "It prevents $600,000 in cuts that would have taken place. We will still have to make some cuts, but far less."

Mr. Lewis thanked the community and the teachers for their support.

Another Williams County school district - Millcreek-West Unity Local - fared differently. Voters defeated a 7.6-mill levy for 28 years to build a $21 million school with state aid. As part of the same issue, a 0.5-mill, 23-year maintenance levy to provide for the upkeep for the proposed building also was defeated.

School officials had hoped to build a school for 735 students in prekindergarten through 12th grade to replace the district's Hilltop elementary and high school.

In Huron City schools, voters approved an 8.9-mill emergency operating levy for five years, the largest millage on the ballot in northwest Ohio.

Fred Fox, superintendent of the Erie County school district, said yesterday that all sports and extracurricular activities, which previously were candidates for cuts, are now safe.

Mr. Fox reasoned that the school district's status as being under a state fiscal emergency helped voters recognize the dire situation facing the district. A five-member state commission has governed the system's finances since the Ohio Department of Education placed the district on fiscal emergency in May, 2004.

"There's a light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

Voters in the Pettisville Local School District in Fulton County approved a 3.5-mill, five-year permanent improvement levy that will provide Pettisville with funds for what Superintendent Stephen Switzer has described as "investment stewardship."

Although there was a low voter turnout for the levy, he said he was very pleased with the outcome.

The district plans to use a portion of the levy funds to replace computers and improve outdoor lighting on the campus.

Henry County's Holgate Local will receive 3 mills for 30 years thanks to voters. The district plans to add athletic facilities and four classrooms to a new campus now under construction.

After having rejected requests from the school district in the past, voters in Antwerp Local Schools in Paulding County approved a new 0.75 percent, five-year income tax that will raise $409,000 a year. Voters denied the same request in November and a request for a continuing 0.75 percent tax in August.

In Hancock County, a 5.5-mill emergency levy for Van Buren Local School District passed by a single vote in unofficial results. Residents of the growing district north of Findlay apparently approved 884-883 the three-year levy, which will generate $1,275,000 annually. However, a recount is expected.

Vanlue voters rejected both a 2 percent income tax and a 6.5-mill emergency levy officials said were critical to the survival of the tiny, 309-student district southeast of Findlay.

The Board of Education already has agreed to place the 6.5-mill levy on the Aug. 2 ballot.

The Benton-Carroll-Salem Local School District in Ottawa County had hoped for a new 5.3-mill, 5-year emergency levy. But similar to November when residents rejected a smaller emergency levy, voters defeated the request, although only by about 100 votes, according to unofficial results.

The levy would have replaced about $1.5 million lost when the state revalued the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station's property and redistributed its tax money, district Superintendent Fred Schnoor has said.

The district, which has about 2,200 students attending its six schools, has a $16 million budget.

School officials have said the levy will likely be back before voters.

Blade staff writers Janet Romaker and Jennifer Feehan contributed to this report.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.



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