Thursday, November 09, 2000

Voters said no; schools changing plans

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON — Plans for a 22-classroom addition at Middletown High School are on hold, and educators in Edgewood are planning for budget reductions next semester after Tuesday's defeat of ballot issues in both districts.

        Middletown Schools voters in Butler and Warren counties rejected a 4.2-mill combination levy, 8,915 to 7,574. A similar proposal was rejected in February 1999.

        Had it passed, the 2.2-mill bond issue would have provided $30 million for building upgrades and additions while the 2-mill permanent improvement portion would have given the district $25 million over 10 years to maintain the schools. When combined with $15.5 million from the Ohio Facilities Commission, the district would have implemented a $71 million reorganization plan.

        “We need to take a few weeks to reflect, to analyze the data and seek guidance from our facilities and finance groups,” said Superintendent Wayne Driscoll. “We're at the same place we were Nov. 6. The need is still there. ... Our buildings will continue to deteriorate.”

        Although the ballot issue failed, Mr. Driscoll said, he was encouraged by the large number of positive votes cast and the fact that the issue picked up 16 percentage points from the last bond issue.

        “That's a big turnaround,” Mr. Driscoll said. “This is the highest amount of positive votes that anybody can remember, higher than in 1999 and even higher than in issues where we won.”

        In Edgewood, voters rejected a 4.9-mill operating levy, 3,504 to 2,152. It would have raised $1.67 million annually for day-to-day operations. It was the first time in 13 years that voters had been asked for a tax raise.

        Superintendent Dale Robertson said he would recommend that the board of education put the issue back on the February ballot. He will begin planning one round of spending cuts to begin no later than mid-January. A second set of budget reductions would be implemented only next July if a ballot issue doesn't pass before then. The district will end this school year with a balance near zero.

        “Without passage of an operating levy in February - or May at the latest - there will be several empty classrooms because of fewer teachers,” Mr. Robertson said Wednesday.

        Field trips and professional development are likely areas for immediate reductions along with supplies and building budgets. More drastic cuts, if needed, would come from the areas of teaching and support staff, transportation, after-school activities and maintenance of buildings and grounds.


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- Voters said no; schools changing plans