Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Milford schools to cut $1.5M if levy fails



By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

MILFORD - Staffing for new schools, special education and higher insurance costs are some of the things that would be covered by a 5.9-mill operating levy, on the ballot Feb. 4.

The continuing levy for Milford schools is expected to raise about $4.7 million annually, said spokeswoman Valerie Miller.

Without the levy, school officials say, the district would face a $1.5 million deficit by June 2004 and a $4 million-plus shortfall the following year.

"We are really proud of the excellent students, parents and staff we have,'' said Superintendent John Frye.

"We are equally proud of the cooperation we have with city and township leaders as we have endeavored on this construction project that allows us to go to neighborhood schools," Mr. Frye said.

"This levy is vital to the next step."

The superintendent said the district's growth, combined with increased property values, means the district will get about 8 percent fewer dollars in its $45 million general fund from the state over the next five years.

That necessitates a shift to the taxpayer, school officials say.

Money the levy would raise is earmarked for purposes including:

• 1 mill, or about $800,000, would be used to hire teachers and staff over the next two years when four new elementary schools open.

• 0.5 mill, or about $400,000, would be spent on special education, including $100,000 in services the district must pick up after the failure of the Clermont County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities levy.

• 1.4 mills, or $1.2 million, would help make up for reductions in state aid from increased property valuation in the district.

• 2 mills, or $1.6 million, would go toward paying for increased insurance premiums, combined with decreased investment earnings.

Without the levy, about $1.5 million in cuts would have to be made for the 2003-2004 school year, school officials say.

Parent Sue Galbraith said she doesn't want class sizes to increase, particularly now that more schools are under construction, which might allow the district to reduce class size.

Further, she doesn't want anything to jeopardize the excellent rating the district has achieved on the 2002 and 2003 state report cards.

"Finally, we'll have the room we need for everybody," said Ms. Galbraith, who has a son in fourth grade and is co-chairing the levy effort.

Enrollment is 6,050 students, up about 150 from last year.

Projections call for about 100 new students each year for the next several years, Ms. Miller said.

Not everyone is in favor of the levy, which would increase taxes about $180 annually on a $100,000 home.

"I've always voted for school issues in the past, but I have my doubts on this one," said Milford resident Walter Doll, who owns an insurance company and rental property.

"We just had a property reappraisal.

"It's putting people in a financial situation where they can't keep up with their bills," he said.




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