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The Daily



12-11-03: St. Marys voters to see 7.9-mill levy in March


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 to people.”
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. 1, 2004.
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.”


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