Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Swanton won't bus high school students

SWANTON - A standing-room-only crowd that included cheerleaders in uniform watched last night as the Swanton Board of Education eliminated transportation for high school students this school year, and agreed to ask voters for more money again in November.

The board, however, did not consider a pay-to-play proposal and effectively rejected another suggestion that would have charged every student an additional $25 in fees.

The board, which last week lost its second bid this year for a new operating tax, unanimously took the first step toward putting a 1 percent, 5-year income tax or a 7.8-mill, 5-year property tax levy on the November ballot. The board is expected on Monday to decide which levy to put on the ballot.

The income tax would raise almost $1.8 million a year. The real estate tax, which is higher than what the board asked for in May, would raise about $1.4 million a year, district treasurer Jeff Price said.

Without more revenue or cutting expenses, he said the school would be $2.2 million in debt next summer.

“We need money and we need it pretty quickly,” board member Michael Remer said.

The board's elimination of four bus routes was expected to save $140,000 per year. But the board let die for a lack of a second Doug Lee's motion for a $25 fee increase for all students this school year.

That would have raised $37,000 by increasing fees for kindergarten through fifth graders to $65, sixth through eighth graders to $75, and high school students to $85 per year.

A pay-to-play proposal from Superintendent Kevin McQuade was never put into a motion. He had talked about charging $100 to high school students who participate in sports, marching band, and cheerleading, and $75 to middle school students in those activities. That could raise $20,000 a year, he estimated.

But board member Barb Schmidt said wasn't so sure.

“You're going to have less people going out for those activities because they can't afford it,” Ms. Schmidt said.

Some people in the audience told the board it should not penalize students who participate in many activities. “The student body is real concerned with what might happen,” said Brandy Murray, captain of the varsity cheerleaders.

The board discussed at length eliminating bus service for all students who live within two miles of their school, but decided against doing so even though levy promotional brochures had said that is what would happen if the board's 1 percent, permanent income tax failed at the polls last week.

District voters handily rejected the income tax; they rejected a 5.5-mill, three-year property tax request in May.

School officials gave lengthy explanations of the district's financial woes during the more than three-hour meeting. Among the school board's losses in projected revenue is a delayed $500,000 payment for the sale of Township Elementary School to the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. The board had expected a payment in June, but the earliest possible settlement date now appears to be March, Mr. Price said.

Also, the board incorrectly received $252,000 more than it was owed in personal property taxes because of a coding mistake by the Ohio Department of Taxation. Somehow a school district code for Provident Financial, Inc., a subsidiary of Provident Bank based in Cincinnati, was entered incorrectly on state tax records, Mr. Price said.

Board president William Green urged the crowd to work hard to pass the board's November levy request.

“If it doesn't pass this time, come wintertime you're not going to recognize this school district,” Mr. Green said. “We're going to roll up the sidewalks at 4 o'clock. We have no choice.”

Earlier, the board unanimously agreed to put a 3.3-mill, five-year permanent improvement levy renewal and a 0.4-mill, 5-year recreation levy for the Swanton Park and Recreation Board on the November ballot. The board had taken the first step toward putting those levies on the ballot last month.

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