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01-14-03: It's a done deal - Franklin will close
01-14-03: State may take over Celina schools in year
Celina school board approves plan reducing costs; puts 2 levies on ballot

The Daily Standard
    Celina City Schools board of education members voted unanimously Monday night to close Franklin Elementary School next school year as part of a reduction plan to save an estimated $729,150.
    The budget reduction plan, required by Jan. 31 by the Ohio Department of Education, addresses the district's projected $1.5 millio  deficit for next year.
    The board also approved two ballot issues for the May election, which include a 3/4 percent, five-year income tax levy replacing the similar 1 percent levy that failed in November, and renewal of the 7-mill emergency operating levy that expires at the end of this year. Revenue problems
    Citing financial strain from unsuccessful levy attempts (six failures of the last seven attempts) and uncertain revenue from state and federal governments in addition to declining enrollment, Wiswell said he believes cuts outlined in the reduction plan will permit the district to  maintain its academic integrity and provide learning challenges to students.
    The reduction plan includes two parts - Part A and Part B (shown on the back page). Part A already has been put into action and includes closing Franklin elementary next school year. Board members said the school will remain closed regardless if the new levies are passed, due to the district's tight budget and decreased enrollment.
    Part B of the reduction plan states that, if either of the two issues in May fails to pass, all athletics and supplemental activities, such as band, choir, National Honor Society, etc., will be eliminated.
    "These have been tough decisions for all of us and we've worked long hours putting together the plan that is best for our students," Wiswell said, adding the board is, in effect, responding to the cry from the community to cut costs.
    Parents and friends of Franklin school offered their own 11th hour cry on Monday night, headed by Montezuma resident and former board of education member Dale Klosterman.
    Klosterman and his accountant son Doug presented charts, graphs and transparencies showing declining enrollment and increasing salaries/benefits throughout the district.
    "2003 expenditures include 81 percent in salaries and benefits for the staff. As salaries have gone up, the number of students have gone down. So, yes, Fred is right it is costing more per student," Doug Klosterman told the audience. Franklin school
    Earlier Wiswell had shown per pupil expenditure at Franklin at $8,350 this year, the highest by almost $1,000 per pupil in the entire district.
    At the end of his presentation, Dale Klosterman asked the board to review alternate considerations, such as using West and Franklin to capacity and using East elementary for overflow and to house a consolidation of special programs and Head Start.
    "There are also alternatives for Franklin residents if the school closes. We can send our kids to Coldwater, St. Henry or Marion Local through open enrollment, and still have a (Celina district) voice at the polls. And, believe me, we'll never pass another school levy," Dale Klosterman said.
    Several Franklin school parents spoke emotionally of their despair at losing their school, among them Roger Cooper, general manager for a company in Portland, Ind. and a newcomer to Franklin district.
    "We've lived a lot of places with my job and I'm originally from Findlay. But we chose this area because of Franklin. There's room for a lot of new families out there, but the school is a big reason why young families come. And, the teachers at Franklin are great. In fact, instead of closing the school, you should give them a damned raise," Cooper told the board.
    Board members concluded the meeting amid shouts and turbulence from the disbanding Franklin contingent. After the vote to close the school, the residents immediately walked out of the meeting, while board members tried to continue their meeting.
    "I truly understand their feelings at losing their school. I hope when the emotion settles we can work through this transition together," Wiswell said following the meeting.

State may take over Celina schools in year

The Daily Standard
    Celina City Schools are about a year away from the state taking over control of the school district if the budget and levies keeping going down, school officials announced at a meeting Monday night.
    Big cuts, including closing Franklin Elementary School in Montezuma, are a done deal as board of education members on Monday night approved budget reduction plans to reduce the district's projected $1.5 million deficit for next year.
    And more cuts, notably the elimination of all athletic activities, are coming if voters fail to pass both May ballot issues, also approved by the board Monday night.
    Plan A, which includes closing Franklin, taking one bus off route, reducing the number of summer maintenance employees, substitute teachers, book fee subsidies, office staff and service days, is a definite. Plan A reductions will save an estimated $729,150.
    "Yes, these reductions will take place whether or not the district gets more money," District Superintendent Fred Wiswell told The Daily Standard.
    If voters do not pass both ballot issues (a 3/4 percent income tax levy for five years and a renewal of a 7-mill property tax emergency operating levy that expires this year), all athletic activities and other extracurricular activities will be eliminated as part of Plan B. The 7-mill levy brings in $2.253 million and the 3/4 percent would bring in an estimated $2.25 million annually, according to Treasurer Mike Marbaugh.
    In addition, Plan B includes eliminating 15 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers and an intervention tutor. Four more buses will be parked, book fee subsidies and full substitute teachers will be further reduced to zero budget expense. Support staff, such as maintenance, custodial, secretarial, educational and office aides, will be reduced by seven people.
    Plan B savings is estimated at $1,586,150.
    If present trends continue (little success at the polls), the district will realize an $8.7 million deficit in 2005, $16.8 million deficit in 2006 and down $25.6 in 2007.
    If the district sees the $1.5 million deficit next year, the state will come in and take control, Wiswell said at the Monday meeting.
    Since 1977, voters have voted down 20 of the district's 35 ballot issues for a 57.1 percent failure rate.


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