By LANCE MIHM
ST. MARYS — St. Marys City Schools residents will vote
on a five-year, 7.9-mill emergency property tax levy in the
March 2 election.
The levy, which would generate approximately $1.8 million per
year based on current property values, is to be used for operating
expenses only and will keep the school from making $5.1 million
in cuts for the 2004-2005 school year. If passed, the levy will
expire in five years.
The school has already made $3.6 million in budget reductions,
most of which were made in January. The reductions include the
closing of Moulton Elementary School.
A committee of local citizens are crusading to educate residents
about the levy and why it is needed. It has included door-to-door
circulation of information and a call-in question and answer
show on local cable access yesterday.
The new ballot proposal comes on the heels of a 1 percent income
tax levy which would have generated about $2.1 million per year
but was handily defeated in November.
“I think people have a greater realization of the seriousness
this time than they did in the last election,” Superintendent
Paul Blaine said. “I think people are more aware.”
Transportation cuts, which would involve no busing of students
within a two-mile radius of their school, would save the school
about $1.4 million per year. That is the largest savings of
any of the proposed cuts. The transportation cut would affect
1,150 students currently eligible to ride buses.
Other cuts the school board said they will have to make include
the closing of Noble Elementary School, further reductions in
elementary aides and staff, switching to a preferred provider
organization for health insurance, the reduction of an extra
period of art/music/physical education, cuts in consumer science
and industrial arts, indefinite elimination of field trips,
elimination of junior high intramural. Six assistant coaching
positions would be eliminated, and the academy program would
be dropped. Position cuts will be based on seniority. School
officials said position cuts would represent approximately 11.5
teaching positions and an additional 11.5 supportive staff positions.
Cuts made include the closing of Moulton Elementary School,
which saved the school an estimated $1.2 million, or about a
third of the money saved. Also cut were five elementary aides,
1.5 library personnel, 1.5 teachers and a half-time secretary.
Summer student workers were reduced in half to eight. Classroom
cleaning time was cut to every other day. The administrative
staff took a voluntary pay freeze which will save $167,000.
Other cuts include an optional preferred provider organization
health benefit program, eliminating the district newsletter,
turf maintenance and transportation to West School for high
school football practice, and an assumed savings in the superintendent’s
salary due to the announced retirement of Blaine was counted
as part of the first round of cuts. These cuts take effect July
All of the cuts were based on maintaining an average true days
cash value of 40 days. True days cash is the amount it takes
to run the school for a day.
In spite of the failure of the levy proposals in November, school
officials feel the March levy has a good chance of passing this
“Most of what I am hearing is reasonably optimistic,”
Blaine said. “I think people understand that the board
is very sincere in its intent to implement the cuts in its reduction
Blaine said no timetables were attached to the approved cuts
and some of the programs or positions could eventually be restored
when the district’s financial situation improved.