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Published: Monday, 8/11/2003

Swanton mulls cuts, tax request

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

SWANTON - The Swanton Board of Education tonight is to consider cutting five school bus routes, making sports and marching band pay-to-play, and asking voters for a bigger real estate tax in November than its request that failed in May.

The board's meeting at 7 p.m. is its first since Tuesday when the school's 1 percent, permanent income tax request failed with 58 percent of voters rejecting the proposal. It was the district's second new operating-tax request to fail this year.

Superintendent Kevin McQuade said he will recommend the board cut a third of its bus drivers, saving $175,000 to $200,000 a year.

The board could choose to reduce transportation to state minimums, which would not provide busing for high school students or for almost any pupils who live within 2 miles of their school. Such a cut would affect about 200 students. But Mr. McQuade said he has safety concerns with that plan and expects the board to mull other options that would allow it to run five fewer buses.

He also will ask the board to vote on a proposal that would charge high school students $100 to participate in football, soccer, volleyball, cross-country, marching band, or cheerleading. Middle school students would be charged $75 to participate in football, volleyball, cross-country, or cheerleading. The proposal could raise as much as $20,000 a year, Mr. McQuade said.

Later this month, Mr. McQuade said he will present a proposal for staff cuts that likely would take place across all classifications, probably during the upcoming school year.

“We've got to plan as if there will be no additional funding coming in,” Mr. McQuade said.

For the November ballot, he said he will recommend the board ask for a five-year tax rather than a permanent tax, as it did Tuesday. But if the board chooses a real estate tax, he said he would recommend 7 mills or more, up from a 5.5-mill, three-year levy that failed by a 2-1 margin in May.

“We're in a situation with our deficits and our loss of funding where in order to balance our budget, this is the income it's going to take,” Mr. McQuade said.

School treasurer Jeff Price is to explain in detail tonight how the district received $500,000 less than expected from personal property taxes in the year ending June 30.

About half of the shortfall was triggered by business closings. The other half was caused by a mistake by the Ohio Department of Taxation, which incorrectly collected $250,000 for the schools from a business that is not in the district, Mr. McQuade said.

The board might wait until its Aug. 18 meeting to decide whether to ask voters for an income tax or a real estate tax on the November ballot. It can take the first step toward putting an issue on the ballot - asking state and county officials to certify figures - for both proposed levies tonight. If the board chooses an income tax, Mr. McQuade said he would recommend asking for 1 percent again.

Tuesday's poll results were much closer than in May, but still a resounding defeat with 344 more people voting no than yes in the unofficial tally of 860-1,204. Three precincts in Fulton County - two in the village of Swanton and a small precinct in Fulton Township - approved the levy. But the largest precincts in Swancreek Township and all five precincts in Lucas County voted heavily against the levy.

On the ballot with a school operating levy in November would be the school's 3.3-mill permanent-improvement levy renewal and the Swanton Park and Recreation Board's 0.4-mill recreation levy renewal.



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