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Published: Wednesday, 10/8/2008

Maumee school district leaders seek $2.9M a year

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Voters in the Maumee City School District will go to the polls Nov. 4 to adopt or reject a new 5.9-mill, continuing operating levy that officials say is needed to maintain the district's programs.

The millage would generate $2.9 million per year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $181 in annual property taxes.

District voters last approved an operating levy in November, 2005, when they said yes to an additional 4.8 mills after rejecting it in May of that year.

Superintendent Greg Smith said at the time that the new tax would give three years of breathing space.

"The lines here cross every three or four years. That's when expenses exceed revenues," he said.

The situation is no different now, except that the phaseout of the state's tangible personal property tax on businesses has aggravated the funding situation.

The phaseout started in 2005 and will end in 2010. The state has been compensating school districts for the loss of revenue, but these reimbursements will themselves be phased out starting in 2011.

In that first year of the phaseout, the district projects it will lose $861,909, or 3.3 percent of its budget. By 2018, the year the reimbursements end, the district projects it will have lost a cumulative $4,884,149, or 23.2 percent of its budget.

Treasurer Paul Brotzki described the November levy request as "just the first step we're taking to address this problem. We're planning for the future," when more income will be needed.

Mr. Smith noted that Maumee's state funding per student is $1,659, well below the $5,732 Ohio per pupil allocation. Maumee collects less because the state considers it a more affluent district.

Furthermore, Maumee is landlocked, with limited space for business and residential expansion. And much of the undeveloped part of Arrowhead Park is outside the school district, the superintendent said. This is also true of the Shops at Fallen Timbers, he added. The areas are part of the Anthony Wayne school district.

The Maumee district is rated "Excellent with distinction" by the Ohio Department of Education, the highest rating possible.

Currently, the levy has no organized opposition.

A standing group called Citizens for Maumee Schools spearheads the pro-levy campaign. It has scheduled informational sessions for Wednesday at the high school and Oct. 28 at Fort Miami Elementary. Both sessions begin at 6 p.m.

Maumee Mayor Tim Wagener, the organization's treasurer, said about $7,000 has been donated to date.

"We've spent about $1,000, mostly for yard signs and mailings," he explained. "We anticipate spending $4,000 to $5,000 by the time we're done."

Mr. Wagener said the biggest donation, at $1,000, came from the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, the union representing the district's nonteaching personnel.

He said Citizens for Maumee Schools also holds annual spaghetti and chili dinners that raise $2,500 to $3,000 each.

"I fully understand that people feel strapped and overtaxed," Mr. Wagener said. "But I've always felt that a community is only as strong as its schools. This additional school money will pay off when people sell their homes by keeping property values up."



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