Thursday, February 13, 2003

Milford asks voters for school levy again in May

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

MILFORD - Administrators of the Milford Exempted Village School district are giving one more try for a 5.9-mill operating levy before making budget cuts.

The school board voted Tuesday night to place the issue, which would raise more than $4.7 million annually, on the ballot again May 6. The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $180 a year.

The levy failed, 4,237 to 2,823, this month.

"It's a critical levy, like all levies for school districts," said Superintendent John Frye. "In our message for the bond issue, we included telling the voters we would need the additional operating levy."

Shelly Higgins, mother of three Milford students and co-chairwoman of the levy campaign, said she was disappointed in the loss and will volunteer for the next election.

"I'm not quite sure where the parents were. It seems the apathy just took over," Higgins said. "Now, as a parent, I am very concerned because when you start cutting millions of dollars, there are things we appreciate that are no longer going to be there."

Without passage in May, the district will have a $1.4 million deficit in the 2003-04 school year and a $4 million deficit the year after. The structure of Ohio's school funding system, which does not allow for levies to keep pace with inflation, and the cost of operating four new elementary schools contribute to the district's need.

"Just to heat one of the new elementary schools will cost $190,000 a year," Frye said. "And we have not and will not hire new teachers for the new schools until the levy passes."

Class sizes exceed 25 students per teacher. The levy would allow the district to reduce that rate to 22 students per teacher in kindergarten through third grade, and 25 students in fourth grade through high school, he said.

"We are an attractive district to people because we have achieved that excellent status, and the educational program is effective for less. We spend $6,700 per student and the state average is about $8,000," Frye said. "The four new elementary schools are also an incentive."

He said the levy will also have an impact on upcoming teacher contract negotiations. The contract currently includes a 4 percent pay raise and 1 percent incentive bonus if the district achieves an excellent rating.

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