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11-06-02: Celina school board try for new funding fails again
The Daily Standard
    Celina City Schools board of education members termed the defeat of the 1 percent, five-year levy an "extreme disappointment" just moments after the final votes were posted in the Mercer County Courthouse on Tuesday night.
    The levy went down 3,122 to 2,940, a margin of 182 votes.
    This marks the sixth school levy defeat for Celina in the last seven attempts, all tried since March 2000.
    Board members have said the district will have an estimated $2 million deficit going into the 2003 school year if the levy fails. The district already lost a 0.25 percent income tax levy that expired in 2000, and now will watch a 0.75 income tax levy roll off the budget at the end of this year.
    Superintendent Fred Wiswell indicated cuts are now a strong possibility with non-required programs and activities being given first consideration.
    "I can't identify exactly what programs and activities. Our board along with (business manager) Mike McKirnan and (school treasurer) Mike Marbaugh will convene and decide on a plan," Wiswell said after the election results were in Tuesday night.
    This morning Wiswell issued a press release to the newspaper stating board members and administration will have to look at system-wide cuts to programs and personnel and hope to release those decisions and another possible levy attempt to voters in February or May.
    The superintendent said although he is quite disappointed with the defeat, the "flip side shows we've gained points" since voters defeated a permanent, 1 percent income tax in May.
    "We were down more than 400 votes in the spring. This time the levy failed by less than 200. I guess you could look at that optimistically," Wiswell said.
    Board member Joe Bath echoed the general disappointment of the superintendent and board members, but posed a question to the community.
    "I'd just like to ask those 3,122 who voted no on the levy, what do you want? We've asked time and time again for your input, but we don't hear anything from you," Bath said.
    Matt Gilmore continued Bath's thought.
    "Voters say they don't want a property tax, so we try an income tax. Then they don't want that, so we go back and forth. It's unfortunate it has to get to this point. We can only do what we can do," he said.
    Board President Ken Fetters simply said he's extremely disappointed that the "voters chose not to support their schools."
    "I am disheartened," said board member Cindy Piper, "that we are now forced to consider cuts. I am just in the dark as to what the community wants for their schools."
    Wiswell called the defeat a "dark chapter in the history of the school system."
    "I cannot think of one area that has not been covered in terms of our efforts to thoroughly communicate the needs and information that surrounded this income tax issue," Wiswell said in his press release. "Most perplexing is that the board and I have fashioned tax issue proposals and related decisions based upon the feedback that we have received from our community. Furthermore, we have gone to extremes in soliciting this input from our district residents and have made ourselves readily accessible for this exchange of information. Apparently, there are other issues of which the majority of voters are choosing to remain silent."
    Citing the city schools' proven track record in achieving excellent
rating in comparison groups statewide, Wiswell said "for whatever reasons, we cannot convey this to the community."
    Along with looking at cuts in the near future, board members also will have to discuss a 7.28-mill property tax levy that expires in December 2003. School officials have said they will seek renewal in the first half of next year, but have not decided the exact amount.


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P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822