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01-21-03: Minster voters will decide on levy in May
6.5-mill or 6.9-mill levy options discussed

The Daily Standard

    MINSTER - Board of education members on Monday discussed the need to pass a new operating levy this year so the district's budget doesn't see a deficit next year.
    The Minster board announced its plans to place a levy on the May ballot after spending nearly two hours discussing the school's budget for 2003 and the gloomy outlook for the district's five-year financial forecast.
    The financial forecast projects a $502,849 debt in 2004, with the debt spiraling down to $2.6 million in 2007.
    Treasurer Laura Klosterman said the tight budget was not unforeseen by the board. She said the board stretched the need for the levy by two years. Board members originally thought a new operating levy would be needed around 2001, she said.
    The board kept a positive balance for fiscal year 2003 by making budget cuts, including completely cutting $92,000 for technology upgrades. Overall, spending was cut 4.1 percent from fiscal year 2001, board members said.
    "If we really have to crunch, we can crunch," Klosterman said.
    She said the board is expecting about $18,000 less in total operating money this year, due to expected cuts from the state and a projected loss in tax revenue.
    Two possible levy amounts were discussed. With a 6.5-mill levy, the 2004 deficit would decrease to $167,000 if no more cuts were made. The deficit would drop to $36,000 if a 6.5-mill levy was passed and if two full-time and one part-time positions expected to be filled next year were delayed. If a 6.9-mill levy was passed, the 2004 deficit would drop to $16,000. With either of these levies, more cuts would have to be made to balance the budget, board members said.
    "We commend the past boards for delaying the need for a levy," board member Ted Beckman said. "But our millage rolls back while our expenses are going up. We need to discuss a levy.
    A board work session to discuss a proposed levy in further detail will be held at 8 p.m. Feb. 3.
    Board member and Tri Star Career Center liaison Dale Sherman discussed the possibility of a heavy loss in grant funding for the Tri Star program.
    In an effort to raise money for establishing the homeland security department, the state may cut the $142,000 Perkins grant that goes to Tri Star. The money is used to reimburse the school for paid vocational school travel and mileage, as well as proficiency test tutoring for vocational students.
    "Losing this funding would have a major negative impact on funding for that program." Sherman said.
    Sherman said the Tri Star board plans on discussing the topic at the Jan. 23 meeting.
    In other business, board members
    - Approved the total amount of the budget reserve set aside funds at $124,888 and budgeted $28,683 of it for the purchase of textbooks.
    - Adopted tax rates established by the county auditor for bond retirement (7.7 mills), general fund outside millage (4.8 mills), general fund outside millage (33.37 mills), permanent improvement (0.8 mills) and recreation levy (0.2 mills).
    - Set a special meeting for 7 a.m. Feb. 28 to discuss insurance quotes.


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