Wednesday, April 30, 2003

History of inconsistency

1950: Enrollment: 58,274; Maintenance budget increased after lack of funding during the Depression and lack of manpower during World War II.

1960-69: 17 buildings built.

1970: Enrollment: 84,299. 8-mill levy renewal passes; 8.5-mill new levy fails. Board member Rev. Tecumseh X. Graham says, "Look at the physical plants. We have been cutting back on the maintenance of our buildings."

1973: 4.8-mill new levy fails; finance committee forecasts at least a $3 million deficit for 1975.

1976: District plans to consolidate buildings and phase out obsolete facilities. District also plans program to reduce the maintenance backlog "resulting from years of neglect," according to board minutes. District rates every school building. Among the worst that "should be replaced or abandoned due to unsatisfactory design and/or structural deterioration" are Chase Elementary, McKinley and the old section of Fairview, all still in use today.

1979: After defeat of levy, district plans to shut school system from September to December to avoid an $8.9 million deficit. District eventually closes for three weeks in November.

1983: Gov. Richard Celeste cuts $193 million in state aid to schools. Board President G. David Schiering addresses community about financial problems, including a deficit that was approaching $7 million in January. "For almost a decade now, the limited financial resources available to our schools has prevented us from accomplishing even routine maintenance except where necessary to protect the health and safety of students and staff."

1990: District is bankrupt after defeat of 7.21-mill emergency levy and applies to the State Loan Fund for assistance.

1991: District plans budget reductions to address $30 million shortfall, including a $2.5 million reduction in maintenance. Buenger Commission, a blue-ribbon panel or business and community leaders, recommends building replacement plan.

1993: $348 million bond issue fails for buildings renovations and replacement. District cuts maintenance and cleaning.

1995: "Our school buildings are literally falling apart," says Virginia Griffin, board president, in addressing levy failures. District plans $31.4 million in cuts, including $1.5 million in maintenance, and then two levies pass.

2002: In November, $480 million bond issue fails.

Erratic budgets let schools deteriorate
School built in 1876 near the end of its life
Tiny gym leaves team always the visitors
Old electrical systems stretched to capacity
Cramped quarters, crowded buildings
Wanted: a little grass, more room to play
Parents worry about lead paint in schools
History of inconsistency

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