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Board may broaden its policy on drug testing

TONTOGANY -- Otsego school board will consider this month spending $8,000 to $14,000 a year to broaden its drug-testing policy to include all seventh graders through seniors who participate in extracurricular activities.

In April, the board unanimously agreed to test all junior high and high school athletes for drugs. At its July 23 meeting - following last week's U.S. Supreme Court approval of random drug tests for many public high school students - the board is expected to vote on adding members of almost all music, art, and other competitive clubs to the list.

Superintendent Joe Long estimated that would include 85 percent of the district's 800 junior high and high school students. The tests being considered cost from $12 to $20 per student, depending how many substances are sought in the lab. The board is debating, because of costs, whether to include nicotine in the testing.

If the board adopts such a policy, it likely will share the cost with the students who are tested, Mr. Long said. He said the rural district has not had a big problem with drugs, but parents and coaches have been concerned, and he wants to give students another reason to say no to drugs.

In other action at its June 27 meeting, the board:

w Agreed on a site plan for a more than $40 million school building project it plans to construct with state assistance if voters pass a proposed bond issue in November.

A building for grades six through 12 would be northwest of the current high school by the distance of about one football field. It would be on a 15-acre plot of farm ground that the district bought this year for $5,000 an acre.

A new building for prekindergarten through fifth grades would be east of the new high school where a soccer field is now. Including numerous athletic fields, the school's campus would be 60 acres.

The board is expected to vote in August on a bond issue request for the November ballot. It will likely ask for a 28-year issue of between 9 and 10 mills, Mr. Long said. If such an issue passes, the state would contribute about $22 million and local taxpayers would be billed about $18 million.

w Heard that expenses are predicted to exceed revenues by $600,000 in the fiscal year beginning July 1 and $375,000 the following year. The situation is not thought to turn around until the year beginning July 1, 2004, when treasurer Christine Ziegler predicted the district will take in $61,000 more than it spends. By the following year, she predicts it will take in $600,000 more than expenses.

A big reason for the difference is that collections are expected to start slowly on the 1 percent income tax that voters passed in May. It is expected to produce $2.14 million a year - almost exactly what the board collects from a 12-mill, three-year levy that expires at the end of this year and a 5.61-mill, five-year levy that expires at the end of next year. Income tax collections are to start next year.

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