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|02-11-03: Celina school board puts 2 levies on ballot
|By JANIE SOUTHARD
The Daily Standard
Celina voters will consider two school tax levies at the polls in May
that Celina City Schools board of education members say will determine the fate of the
sports program and other extracurricular activities next year.
During Monday night's meeting, board members unanimously passed
resolutions to place on the May ballot a renewal of a 6.8-mill operating levy that will
bring in $2,253,013 per year for three years and a 3/4 percent income tax levy for five
years to raise an additional $2,250,000 per year.
"The May ballot issues will be an attempt to replace the 0.75
percent income tax that expired Dec. 31, and renew the 7 mill property tax that will
expire in December 2003 ... No money is coming into the district (at this time) from local
income tax," board President Cindy Piper told board members and an audience of about
Last month board members approved a two-part budget reduction plan.
Part B of the budget reduction plan states that if either of the two May issues fails to
pass, all athletics and supplemental activities will be eliminated.
Piper said the May outcome will absolutely determine athletics and activities
for next year. "Passing levies in August or next November will be too late," she
Part A of the reduction plan closed the doors of Franklin Elementary School
in Montezuma at the end of this school year, as well as eliminated or reduced teaching,
full- and part-time staff positions.
Superintendent Fred Wiswell addressed "rumors" circulating
about the fate of the Franklin building.
"There is a lot of talk around about the board selling the
building. We have no plans to sell the building. Coldwater Superintendent Eric Hoffman
contacted me about the possibility of leasing the building for the period of January 2004
through the end of the 2005-06 school year. But we had only two brief conversations and
nothing is definite," Wiswell said.
He also said there have been discussions with Montezuma Methodist
Church to expand its use at the Franklin building.
Several Franklin district residents attended Monday night's meeting,
including Ginny Axe, who addressed the board with concerns about how the school closing
announcement was handled; Rodger Cooper, who has already announced his candidacy for a
school board seat in November; Dean Klosterman, who assisted with his father's
presentation to save the school at last month's meeting; and several others.
Axe read a letter she said she intends to submit to The Daily Standard.
The letter centered around "board members' lack of consideration to the
community" when Franklin residents first inkling came in a newspaper article. She
suggested board members had discussed the possible closing outside a public meeting.
"We didn't have enough time to provide alternatives. The only way
anyone knew of Mr. Wiswell's meeting (Jan. 11) with Franklin residents was by word of
mouth. It wasn't in the newspaper," Axe said.
Both Piper and board member Mary Lehman addressed public concerns about
the secrecy of the decision process.
Lehman, speaking off the cuff, was adamant that the board as a whole
never met concerning the budget reduction plan, which was created by Wiswell, Treasurer
Mike Marbaugh and Business Manager Mike McKirnan with input from the board.
She said board members spoke individually with the administration
regarding any concerns with the approaching budget reduction plan.
In speaking individually of district issues and not as a board,
technical compliance with the Sunshine Laws is maintained. However, in the May 2001
Sunshine Laws update, released by then Attorney General Betty Montgomery, members of a
public body should not circumvent the law by individual, serial meetings or round robin
phone calls to deliberate or discuss public business.
Piper, using a prepared speech, aggressively defended the board's
actions. She said she chose using Channel Six - where the board's January meeting was
aired - to make her remarks, rather than using the "Readers write" section of
the newspaper. That decision was made so "these issues can be addressed to the public
without the information being editorialized by the media," she said.
"The board addresses you now because the integrity of this board,
as well as the personal integrity of its members, has been placed on the chopping block,
an action not taken lightly," the board president read.
"The Daily Standard, through its editorial on Feb. 1 has
implicated the board of violating the Sunshine Law and is seemingly trying to convince the
community that the board cannot be trusted to act on behalf of the residents and students
of the Celina school district," Piper read.
She noted the newspaper "chose to focus upon the emotional aspects
of this plan rather than to present all data, statistics and figures that were the
motivation for it."
Piper cited facts that she said "discount implications of secrecy
or lack of thoroughness of the administration or the board."
She noted: several attempts to pass tax levies; extensive
campaign efforts; district surveys to collect community input; and several other campaign
activities to keep voters informed.
She said "at each and every step of the way, voters were informed
that if the levies fail, drastic reductions will have to be made."
Several of the audience commented following the meeting that the term
"drastic reductions" was not the same as "closing a school."
In other action, board members:
- Accepted the resignation of Diana Hawk, East school cafeteria
manager, due to retirement after 30 years service and hired Pat Lane as interim cafeteria
manager until June 6 with an increase of 58 cents per hour.
- Presented certificates of appreciation to Emily Schindler, district
spelling bee champion; Phil Schlotterer, Veterans of Foreign Wars District Teacher of the
Year; Jack Clouse, girls basketball coach, for his 300th career victory; Mike Kanney, boys
basketball coach, for his 100th career victory; and Bruce Boley, high school dean of
students, received a Good Samaritan award.
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