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Published: Wednesday, 12/10/2008

Maumee schools chief: Clarify fiscal picture to voters before cutting student services

BY BRIDGET THARP
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Maumee City Schools must better communicate its shaky fiscal picture to voters before cropping student services, the superintendent said this week.

The district will soon begin the regular distribution of "financial reality" fliers to the public in anticipation of a new levy campaign, superintendent Greg Smith said during board discussions about changing high school busing.

"I feel that because we did not list the elimination of high school busing as a consequence of a failed levy in 2008, we should not implement any cuts at this time," Mr. Smith said.

Bus service will continue for Maumee High School students in January despite a recently failed levy, the Maumee Board of Education voted 3-2 Monday.

Last week, Mr. Smith suggested the elimination of high school busing as one of many cuts to soften the estimated $219,215 shortfall expected to appear in June, 2010.

The expected deficit relates to the 5.9-mill levy, which would have generated $2.9 million a year had it survived the Nov. 4 election.

Board member Glenn Rambo pushed for bus service to end in January, saying it may head off other cuts and would send a message to voters as the district decides whether to seek a levy again in May.

Mr. Smith asked the board before the vote Monday to reject the idea because the cancellation of bus service was not presented to voters as a consequence of a failed November levy.

Before Mr. Rambo moved to eliminate high school bus service, he noted that he regretted his disagreement on the matter with the superintendent. He praised Mr. Smith as "a dedicated educator," adding, "sometimes I think that colors his position a little further than it colors mine."

The board should suspend bus service because voters signaled that the district should spend less money, Mr. Rambo said.

"If you don't want to pay for excellence, than you get something less than excellence," Mr. Rambo said. "That's the reason for the motion."

Only board president Stephanie Piechowiak stood by his vote.

Board member Janet Wolff said the January date wouldn't provide the district time to consider consequences of changing bus service.

Board member Sylvia Washburn said she worried the district would be unprepared for increased traffic at the high school, or that students forced to walk could be in danger.

Kris Roan, whose daughters graduated from Maumee schools, was pleased the board will explain the fiscal consequences of the next levy before changing student services.

Voters should ask themselves "are they willing to push the button to eliminate all these things or dig a little deeper," Mrs. Roan said.

Had high school busing been eliminated, district officials said it would have saved about $33,000 if implemented for the remainder of the school year, and $54,000 annually after that.

Without new funding, the Maumee schools budget could post a deficit of $219,215 in June, 2010, according to district estimates.

When asked for public comment, no parents stood to discuss the proposed changes for high school busing. Instead, one resident spoke out against the idea of a new property tax levy that could appear on a May ballot to repair district finances.

"I was against the levy. I feel you people on the board have no consideration for seniors," Louis Robaszkiewicz, 77, said, adding later that he would rather support an income tax levy.

"Why don't you be nice and take a 20 percent cut in pay and help out the school? That's all I got to say."



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