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Published: Monday, 10/6/2003

Erie County schools seek levy help on Nov. ballot

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Monroeville school district is making voters an offer it hopes they can't refuse: Pass a bond issue to build a junior high-high school building, and get a new elementary school from the state.

The 8.6-mill, 28-year bond issue on next month's ballot would generate $10.9 million for construction of a school for grades 7 to 12, Superintendent Carol Girton said. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $263 a year.

If the tax is approved, the Ohio School Facilities Commission would give the district $8.9 million later this decade to expand the building for other grades.

“We're going to get a free elementary - a free pre-K through 6 is what it comes out to,” Ms. Girton said. “That $8.9 million is taxpayer money to begin with, that's state taxes, and it's really their money, and if they don't use that money, somebody else is going to use it. So it's a good deal for them.”

The building would replace Monroeville's school, which houses all of the district's 720 students. It was built in 1935 and expanded in 1964.

If voters back the tax, construction likely would begin in about a year, with the building done by fall, 2006, she said.

The Monroeville district, part of which is in Huron County, is one of six Erie County school systems seeking more money at the polls on Nov. 4.

In the Sandusky City Schools, the county's largest district, officials are banking on approval of a 5.9-mill continuing levy to avoid a $2.65 million deficit by June, 2005. The tax for operations would raise about $2.65 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $181 a year.

Superintendent Bill Pahl said the district has cut $4 million in spending in the last three years for such items as supplies and equipment and eliminated 38 teaching, classified, and administrative jobs.

More job cuts, course reductions, and the end of sports and clubs could be on the way if the tax fails. “We would have to cut another $2.65 million, and that would not be easy,” Mr. Pahl said.

In the Perkins Local School district, voters are being asked to pass a 4.9-mill continuing levy for operations. The tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $150 a year. Superintendent Sharon Bucceri said the district faces growing enrollment, rising costs, and a projected deficit of $1.5 million by June, 2005.

“We've grown by more than 200 students in the last three years, and that's basically expected to continue,” she said.

Huron City Schools laid off 14 employees including eight teachers this spring because of budget woes, and the district could issue more pink slips if voters reject a five-year, 4.9-mill emergency operating levy, Superintendent Fred Fox said.

The tax would generate about $1.3 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $150 a year. The Huron schools had to borrow $600,000 to make payroll over the summer and must start paying that money back to the state in January, Mr. Fox said. “You can cut expenditures, but you have to cut services and programs to do that,” he said.

The Firelands Local School district, which is split between Erie and Lorain counties, is seeking a five-year, 4.9-mill emergency levy. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $150 a year.

The Ehove Career Center is seeking a 0.5-mill, 18-year bond issue that would raise $15 million for a classroom building and renovations to another facility at its Erie County campus, Superintendent Joe DeRose said.

Municipalities with tax issues Nov. 4 include Vermilion, which is seeking a six-year, 0.25 percent income tax for street work, and Kelleys Island, a three-year, 1.29-mill levy for police protection.

Across most of Erie County, voters will choose township trustees, school board members, and village councilmen.

Residents of Milan, a village of 1,445 split between Erie and Huron counties, will choose between giving Mayor Michael Bagnato a second term or returning Robert Bickley to the office he held for 24 years.

Mr. Bickley, 68, a Republican who was mayor from 1976 to 2000, is critical of how Milan's new municipal building was handled. The facility will open for business this month.

The village bought a former grocery store on Main Street for $190,000 several years ago, then tore it down in 2001 to make room for the new village office center, built at a cost of $687,000. Mr. Bickley thinks the village should have renovated the old store instead.

“That doesn't sit too well with people, wasting taxpayers' money,” he said. “We needed to consolidate, but I thought we could do it more economically.”

Mr. Bagnato, a Democrat on council for six years before becoming mayor, argues that the old store was not a good candidate for renovation.

“One of the problems with that building is that it had been added onto a number of times, and it had some mold in it,” Mr. Bagnato said. “Bob thinks we maybe wasted some money, and I disagree.”

Mr. Bickley, who returned to village government as a councilman last year, also criticizes Mr. Bagnato's administration for raising water and sewer rates 10 percent annually for the next three years.

“They should be living within the budget,” he said.

Mr. Bagnato said the higher rates are needed to replace aging waterlines and perform maintenance on the system.

“Everything we're doing is trying to maintain what we have now,” he said.



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