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Published: Wednesday, 5/25/2011

Maumee school leaders mull levy request

BLADE STAFF

Four levy amounts and two levy dates are under review in Maumee City Schools in the aftermath of the May 3 defeat of a funding request.

The board of education, which passed resolutions seeking county auditor certification for the two levy dates and the various levy amounts, will discuss the options and scenarios during its June 6 meeting.

The resolutions were taken to the Lucas County Auditor and have been certified.

The amounts are for a 4.9-mill continuing operating levy, a 5.5-mill operating levy, a 5.9-mill continuing operating levy, and a 6.9-mill continuing operating levy for a possible ballot issue Sept. 13 or the general election Nov. 8.

On May 3, voters rejected a 5.9-mill levy request by 1,484 to 1,369. The 5.9-mill levy was estimated to produce $2.7 million in annual revenue.

The school district has learned that the City of Maumee charter allows for a September election in some cases, and school officials have asked for confirmation on whether Maumee City Schools can place a levy request on the ballot at that time.

The matter has been referred to the Ohio Secretary of State's office, Superintendent Greg Smith said.

"I think the board is interested in September, and if not, definitely in November," he said. "I have definitely recommended a levy be placed on the next available ballot."

Since 2003, the Maumee school board has trimmed its budget by $3.8 million. It has eliminated 46 jobs.

Spending cuts in just the last two years total $1.3 million, and the board expects to make another round of cuts before the 2011-12 school year begins.

Maumee's five-year forecast, adopted last month, shows that the district will have a $2.2 million decline in revenue in the coming school year, in large part as a result of education funding cuts advanced by the Kasich administration to tackle Ohio's budget problems.

Because of significant reductions in state funding for schools, Maumee is looking at trimming its staff by an additional eight positions as part of $1.3 million in spending cuts for the coming school year, Mr. Smith said.

Other cost-saving measures include closing Union Elementary School as part of a plan to reconfigure elementary-level education because of declining enrollment.

Maumee's budget is barely balanced through the next school year, the superintendent said, and the budget includes a $200,000 carryover, much less than the district should have on hand.

The district's five-year forecast estimates a $1.9 million deficit in the 2012-13 school year and a $5 million deficit in the 2013-14 school year. Maumee has an annual budget of about $27 million.

Although the amount of a levy or when it would go on the ballot is not known, school officials are searching for areas where Maumee could pare expenses in case voters again say no.

Items being explored include eliminating high school busing, closing school buildings to use by outside groups, setting a per-sport pay-to-play fee, and raising the fee charged for kindergarten, Mr. Smith said

Right now, the kindergarten fee is $1,000 a year per student, but that doesn't cover the cost, Mr. Smith said.'

He noted that he thinks a fee of $2,500 would cover the cost.

Maumee has a pay-to-play fee of $100 per student to play any sport or sports, but school officials could set a per-sport amount per student.

If the next levy is not successful, "I think there will be some significant consequences," the superintendent said, adding voters will know before the election what would be eliminated or changed.

Meantime, school officials are reviewing the campaign conducted ahead of the May 3 election. The outcome was "very close," Mr. Smith said, with only about 100 votes shy of passage.

Despite reminders and mailings, some people forgot to vote. Some have told school officials they meant to vote but didn't. Rain fell early in the day, and the weather might have decreased the voter turnout.

For the upcoming campaign, "we will go at it even harder," Mr. Smith said. For instance, more informational meetings could be held during which voters could come and ask questions.

The price of gasoline was peaking at $4 a gallon in early May, and that might have influenced some people, Mr. Smith said.

Some voters might have been reluctant to approve a new tax after pumping additional dollars into their cars.



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