By LANCE MIHM
ST. MARYS — Board of education members agreed to place
a 7.9-mill property tax on the March election ballot after listening
to several residents during a Wednesday night board meeting.
The decision came after 90 minutes of input from several of
the 76 residents who attended the meeting. Most agreed a new
levy was needed and discussion on the amount varied from 5.9
to 11 mills.
“I’m going way off the chart here, but I think we
need to ask for 10 mills,” resident Ed Noble said. “I
don’t want to cut anything out of the quality education
we get here. I think we could pass it after explaining the situation
But the board quickly turned down that suggestion.
“I think if we tried for 10 mills, people would think
we were stealing cookies out of the jar,” board member
Darren Caywood said.
School officials have said the district is facing a deficit
of $1.8 million in 2006 that would grow to $7.6 million in 2008,
assuming no cuts or no new levies.
Treasurer Peg Grimm said cuts are necessary and she predicts
$2.4 to $3.6 million in cuts will need to be made through 2008.
Several residents asked what specific things would be cut, but
the board was unwilling to discuss the issue.
“This is not the board that will be making the cuts,”
Superinten-dent Paul Blaine said, referring to Rees McKee and
Craig Gottschalk, the new members who will take their seats
in January. “I think we ought to hold off discussing the
cuts until after the first of the year. It gives us all something
to look forward to.”
Resident Judy Weng said she feels voters would want cuts made
in administrative staff and spending, since that would have
less impact on children.
“I think people wanted to see a change in administration
and they wanted the cuts to be made in administration also,”
Weng said at the meeting. “This election wasn’t
about the money. Sometimes to vote no on a levy is our only
way to send a message.”
Just a week after the November election, Blaine announced his
retirement as superintendent of the district, effective Aug.
Resident Bill Kellermeyer suggested cutting the assistant principal
positions and the assistant superintendent position, something
he said he heard other residents also talking about.
The proposed five-year, 7.9-mill levy would bring in $1.84 million
annually and cost a taxpayer with a $100,000 home about $249
per year. In November, voters rejected a 1 percent income tax
that was estimated to bring in $2.1 million annually.
Resident Mark Torsell asked the board if an income tax instead
of a property tax was off the table and if a new school construction
levy was still a possibility.
The board agreed the construction issue was dead for now, and
Blaine added that popular opinion at the last board meeting
was that a property tax was more favorable than an income tax.
“However, I think an income tax is something the board
will want to consider in four years when it is time to go for
another operating levy,” Blaine said.
The board plans to begin selling the levy to the public immediately
and will begin discussing budget cuts after the first of the
year, they said.
“I work at Goodyear and I see what is going on. Jobs are
being cut and a person in an office is now doing the jobs of
two people,” McKee said. “The people in the community
are experiencing that, and I think they want to see some tightening
of the belt.”