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Published: Wednesday, 10/19/2011

Maumee to ask voters again for levy

Schools lost by fewer than 120 in May

Maumee High School principal Larry Caffro spends the evening posting levy signs around Maumee in support of the school levy. Maumee High School principal Larry Caffro spends the evening posting levy signs around Maumee in support of the school levy.
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MAUMEE -- Since a proposed levy lost in May's election by fewer than 120 votes, Maumee City Schools officials said they hope their message resonates louder this time as they ask the public to approve the property tax again on Nov. 8.

The campaign has given out 550 yard signs -- 250 more yard signs than from the failed levy campaign -- and recruited up to 80 volunteers, or double the number from the past election.

There is a greater sense of urgency because the district is expected to lose $1.5 million this year in state funding, Superintendent Gregory Smith said.

"We're basically at that academic tipping point," Mr. Smith said. "The revenues continue to dry up. … People realize what's at stake."

The 4.9 mills sought would cost the homeowner of a $100,000 house about $150 a year, generating about $2.27 million annually for the district. The proposal on the May 3 ballot had been 5.9 mills.

If the tax fails again, the board likely would put the issue on the ballot a third time in 2012, Mr. Smith said.

Meanwhile, the district would face a $2.2 million shortfall until it could pass a millage and start collecting tax revenue from a levy in 2013.

To make up the $2.2 million loss, the board of education is considering a number of cuts, including:

Laying off up to 30 staff positions, which could include cutting the 187-person teaching staff by 8 percent, or 15 teachers.

Eliminating busing for all high school students as early as November or December to save $143,000 a year. For students in kindergarten through eighth grade, busing would be scaled back and available only to those who live two or more miles from school, instead of one mile. That change could take effect in the 2012-2013 school year and could save the district about $108,000 a year.

Increasing the fee to play sports and participate in other school clubs up to $300 per activity, which would generate an estimated $300,000 annually. Currently, there is an annual $100 flat fee to participate in all activities.

Cutting all-day kindergarten, which would save $270,000 by switching to half-day kindergarten.

In May, the levy was the only issue on the ballot for Maumee voters. But the Nov. 8 election includes the Maumee city mayor's race and the hotly contested Issue 2 that restricts public employees' negotiating power.

The loaded ballot could play into the school campaign's favor since high turnout may bring a strong showing of school supporters, Mr. Smith said.

"I believe there will be a good voter turnout," Mr. Smith said. "Historically, a good voter turnout has been good for the school system. Beyond that, it's hard to predict."

But he added, "I'm the eternal optimist."

Voters last approved a school levy in May, 2009.

Contact Gabrielle Russon at: grusson@theblade.com or 419-724-6026.

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