Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Talawanda voters again will face levy

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        OXFORD — Voters in the Talawanda Schools will be asked again in November to approve a 6.5-mill operating levy to prevent further budget cuts and to increase teachers' salaries.

        On Monday the school board reviewed other options, including a five-year emergency levy, before adopting the first of two resolutions needed to put the issue on the Nov. 7 ballot. Only board President William Vollmer voted against the measure, preferring 4.7 mills.

        “We've been on the ballot twice. ... We've been blown out of the water two times,” Mr. Vollmer said. “The 4.7 mills would have allowed a moderate salary increase. I think there's a big negative feeling in the community for 6.5 mills.”

        In March, voters rejected both a 6.5-mill continuing levy and a 4.6-mill bond issue to build a new high school. A combination issue that included both operating and construction dollars was rejected in November.

        Since then, the board has dropped the construction project and adopted a 15-point plan to reduce spending by $600,000 for the upcoming school year.

        Superintendent Susan Cobb attributes the resigna tions of three administrators and at least nine teachers to Talawanda's low salaries for teachers.

        A beginning teacher with a bachelor's degree earns $23,692 annually. The highest paid teacher — with at least 25 years' experience, a master's degree and 30 hours of training beyond a master's degree — can earn $49,244 annually.

        “I know many resignations are because (people) were recruited away from us by other districts that could offer them more money,” Miss Cobb said. “We've lost 20 percent of our administrators in the last few months. We've put a bond issue for facilities on hold. Clearly, in creasing revenues for daily operations and salaries (are) our highest priority.”

        The operating levy would raise about $2.8 million each year — enough to restore most budget cuts and keep the district solvent through June 2003 or 2004, said James Rowan, Talawanda's treasurer.

        “Things are going to get worse in a hurry if we don't pass this in November,” said board member Robert Sherman. “We're going to try the 6.5 mills by itself.”

        The owner of a house with a market value of $100,000 would see taxes increase by about $199 annually if the levy is approved, Mr. Rowan said.


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