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Published: Saturday, 8/14/2004

Lake Local may restore most fall sports

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MILLBURY - Lake Local school board members said last night they are considering restoring most fall sports and other extracurricular activities in response to a petition drive that gathered 2,270 signatures pledging to vote for a possible income tax this fall.

During a work session at the former Millbury Elementary School, the board said it may grant reprieves to such programs as half-day, every-other-day kindergarten; a tutoring service; a breakfast program; four custodian jobs, and activities including the high school yearbook, newspaper, and student council.

The board will decide at its regular meeting Monday whether to restore some of the

$1.2 million in budget cuts fi- nalized last week in response to the defeat of an 11-mill property levy. Members also will decide whether to heed the petitions and seek a 1 or 1.25 percent income tax or another property tax levy.

Superintendent Paul Orshoski said the board is unlikely to restore winter or spring sports until the outcome of a levy vote in November.

"I hate to be like this, but if you bring everything back, where's the motivation for the voters?" he asked.

Board members, district officials, and supporters of the petition drive spent much of last night's meeting debating whether to pursue an income tax or a smaller property levy.

"We think an income tax is a strong levy for the school district. We think it's a progressive tax," said Mark Timmons, a leader of the petition drive.

But some board members questioned whether an income tax would raise enough revenue, or even be approved at the ballot box.

Mr. Orshoski said he has heard from numerous residents who don't want an income tax because it would cost them more than 11 mills.

"We've gotten calls in our office all week to that effect," he told Mr. Timmons. "They'll be just as organized as you are in opposing it."

Mr. Timmons and other speakers said their canvass of neighborhoods showed voters were more receptive to an income tax than another property levy.

But resident Julie Kalisik said she believes an income tax might cause some supporters of the 11-mill request in the last election to vote no.

"I've talked to a lot of people who voted for the 11 who are not going to vote for an income tax because it's going to cost them too much," she said.

During discussion between board members and the audience of about 40 people, district Treasurer Nancy Heckman suggested seeking a two-year property tax of 7 to 8 mills.

"The best tax for Lake district is a property tax. It's spread out more," she said.

Ms. Heckman estimated that a 1 percent income tax would equal about 7 mills, while 1.25 percent would equal about 9 mills. An income tax in that range would raise between $1.6 million and $2 million a year, according to state estimates.

The 11-mill levy, which the board initially planned to put back before voters in November, would raise $2.5 million a year. That tax would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $337 a year.

Contact Steve Murphy at:

smurphy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.



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