Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
By Margie Wuebker
Marion Local voters to decide on property tax
  MARIA STEIN - The Marion Local Schools board of education made it official Monday night - they intend to seek an additional property tax at the November general election.
The news should come as no surprise to district residents since school officials have stated repeatedly they need an additional $150,000 per year to stave off red ink and deficit spending.
In March, voters narrowly defeated a 0.25 percent income tax that would have generated that amount, but passed an 11.6-mill levy that will generate $805,662 annually for a period of five years. The passed levy replaced a levy that expired in December and brings in an additional $50,000 annually.
Additional revenue still is needed to maintain current services with dollars going for general operation of the district, including books, educational supplies, fuel, utilities, salaries and benefits, buses and maintenance of buildings and grounds, school officials have said.
With the resolution of necessity in place, Mercer County Auditor Mark Giesige will determine the number of mills needed. Treasurer Paul Gagel expects the figures to be in the neighborhood of 2.13 mills once the auditor factors in updated property valuations.
Final board action is expected at the Aug. 11 meeting, 10 days prior to the deadline for placing a levy on the ballot.
Gagel earlier presented a financial report comparing figures for the recently completed fiscal year as well as the two preceding periods. The district spent $18,662.74 more than it took in during the 2007-2008 fiscal year ending June 30.
The negative amount represents a decrease from the 2006-2007 shortfall of $48,272.43 and 2005-2006 figures of $56,747.24 in the red.
"We are trying to hold the line on spending as much as possible," the treasurer said. "However, there is only so much we can do."
Marion Local Superintendent Carl Metzger added rising prices continue to make cost-cutting efforts difficult. He cited bread costs as an example with each loaf costing 10 to 13 cents more than last year. Only two companies - Maria Stein Grain Inc. (water softener salt) and Maharg Inc. (trash pickup) - submitted bids that reflect no increases.
While prices continue to escalate, the treasurer indicated there are no meaningful increases in state funding on the horizon. The expected increase of $7,716 represents a hike of just .0016 percent.
In other business, the board:
• Heard an update on an energy audit proposal prepared by Greg Smith, certified energy manager and educational facilities specialist for Waibel Energy Systems. The audit was conducted as a means of identifying potential conservation measures that could reduce natural gas and electrical consumption as well as maintenance expenses. With natural gas costs rising from $1.49 to nearly $2.20 during the coming school year, conservation becomes even more important.
• Discussed changing the dates for two upcoming meetings with formal action expected in August. Plans call for the September meeting to take place Sept. 8 and the November session on Nov. 6.
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