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Published: 7/23/2008

Voters asked to approve 2 3.3-mill levies in primary for Anthony Wayne Local

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

For the third time in 18 months, officials in the Anthony Wayne Local Schools are gearing up to go to the polls.

Their request is the same as before: operating funds.

On Aug. 5, Anthony Wayne voters will be asked to approve two 3.3-mill levies that would generate a total of $30 million, or $6 million annually for five years.

One request is for a renewal of a levy adopted in 2003 that brings in $3 million a year in taxes and expires at the end of 2008. The other is a new tax that would raise an additional $3 million annually.

If both issues are adopted, taxpayers would continue to pay taxes on the renewal levy and, in addition, they would see a hike in their taxes by $101 per year on a $100,000 home. A mill equals $1 per $1,000 of a property's assessed value.

In March, voters in the district turned down a 6.5-mill request that would have raised $6 million annually.

Since May of last year, when a 4.5-mill request was rejected, the district has reduced expenses by $2 million, officials said.

The pro-levy campaign has attracted 175 volunteers, according to Mike Kirby, its treasurer. He said it has $10,300 in the bank and has spent $3,900, about $1,500 of that on yard signs. It began with a carry-forward balance of $9,600 from the unsuccessful March campaign, and has raised $4,600.

The biggest financial contributor to the campaign - at $1,000 - is the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, the union representing the district's nonteaching staff, which includes bus drivers, custodians, aides, and cooks.

National City Bank contributed $750 and The Andersons Inc., $500, Mr. Kirby said.

The school district must bear the cost of the special August election, but officials at the Lucas County Board of Elections were in the dark as to what that would be.

Pro-levy signs have sprouted in lawns across the district, along with anti-levy yard signs.

William Spore of Waterville has a large anti-levy sign in the yard of his Michigan Avenue home. The 70-year-old said he receives Social Security disability payments and pays almost $200 a month in real estate taxes.

"Not that I'm against the kids, I'm just not voting for any more taxes. They should draw the line somewhere," he explained.

Figures supplied by Anthony Wayne Superintendent John Granger show enrollment was at 4,650 last school year, up from 4,601 in the 2006-2007 school year. The district had 291 teachers that school year, and 275 in the 2007-2008 school year.

In May, a state auditor's report said that the district has too many employees, including teachers, nurses, guidance counselors, tutors, and janitors, and could save more than $1.4 million by eliminating staff.

The performance audit was issued by Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor. Its findings were based on an examination of district operations that began in July and ended in November.

Mr. Granger and Treasurer Kerri Johnson countered that the performance audit used information collected before the results of the cost-cutting campaign were realized.

Anthony Wayne averages 28 students per class in grades 5 to 12 and 24 per class in kindergarten through fourth grade.

Those class sizes will have to increase if both levies don't pass, Mr. Granger said, as the district would not have the funds to replace 14 of the 17 teachers who have left this year.

If one levy passes on Aug. 5, layoffs would be avoided, but the district would have to return to the polls with another request, Mr. Granger said.

"If both levies pass, it doesn't mean we're going to go on a hiring spree," the superintendent said. "We'll have to be very fiscally conservative even if both levies pass."

Mr. Granger has emphasized repeatedly that Anthony Wayne's $8,293 cost per pupil is lower than for any suburban district in the area. Ohio Department of Education figures confirm this. The Otsego Local Schools have the next lowest at $8,413.

Anthony Wayne, with a $31 million operating budget, has been on the state's fiscal caution list because it does not have a 2 percent budget carryover. To get off that list, the district would have to set aside part of any new funds received, Mr. Granger said.

"We have to generate some new funds not only to meet the needs of the student but to achieve a carryover each year," he explained. "This is another reason why both levies must pass."

If both levies fail, the school

board has signaled its readiness to lay off teachers, reduce bus service, and adopt a pay-to-play fee for extracurricular activities.

Three kindergarten through eighth-grade teachers would be furloughed as well as a foreign language teacher, a guidance counselor, six secretaries, five custodians, two nurses, and a bus driver.



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