Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Lockland risks losing schools


Crucial vote: Levy would cover costs

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

LOCKLAND - The Lockland Schools will dissolve in 10 months unless voters approve a money issue before year's end.

Voters here and in Arlington Heights will be asked to approve a 15-mill continuing levy on Aug. 5 that would bring $2.5 million to school coffers each year.

The financially strapped district of 650 students - Hamilton County's smallest - is facing a deficit by December 2004, despite cutting its staff by 26 positions after a 24.1-mill levy failed in February.

The move cut payroll by $1.4 million annually, said Superintendent Phil Fox.

"We won't open our doors in August '04 because we won't have enough money if levies fail," Fox said. "This community has had a school in operation since 1851. It would be a shame for the villages. They would lose a big part of their identity."

Declining tax revenue from General Electric Aircraft Engines is one of the main reasons for the district's financial crisis.

Talks have already begun with the Ohio Department of Education and neighboring school districts about what would happen to the students of Lockland and Arlington Heights if the district were dissolved.

Wyoming and Reading are not interested in absorbing the Lockland district, and Princeton is taking a "wait and see" outlook, Fox said.

"Only Cincinnati (Public Schools) is willing to take us if the state says that's the best merger," Fox said.

Should the district be dissolved, taxes would still go up because residents would be taxed at the same rate of whatever district accepts Lockland's students, Fox said.

If that were Cincinnati, taxes for most Lockland families would increase at about the same rate as they would if the Lockland levy were approved. Taxes would jump $345 annually on a $75,000 house, Fox said.

"You're going to pay someone. Why not save property values and 153 years of tradition and save the district?" said Village Councilman Mark Mason, a lifelong Lockland resident who is coordinating the levy campaign with Debbie Peak. "Our school is our foundation of both communities. The schools are the second largest employer in Lockland."

Losing a district where everyone knows her children isn't worth a slightly lower tax bill, said Peak.

"I don't feel people think the schools will really close,'' Peak said. "My children love it here. This is a good, viable school district. It's like a family here. I would hate to see it fall apart for lack of understanding on the residents' part."

---

E-mail suek@infionline.net




ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
Pulfer: Mean streets?
Korte: Inside City Hall
Howard: Some good news

TRISTATE NEWS REPORT
Still no word from Springer on Senate
Last call at Saks bar
Urban youths test new waters
Tall Stacks asks county for $100,000
Prosecutors dedicate unit to child abuse
Butler court records better
Heberle students to be at Porter
Type O blood need called 'critical'
Lockland risks losing schools
Environmentalists trying to halt Mill Creek work
Monroe may vote on tax credit
Boy hospitalized with chest wound in shooting
Voinovich pushes higher U.S. gas tax
Tristate A.M. Report
Money's running out for uranium cleanup

OBITUARY
Bill Louder, 72, was accounting firm partner, Miami fan

KENTUCKY REPORT
Fletcher, Chandler will debate at NKU
Lockbox first evidence entered in murder trial
$55M upscale mall proposed
Covington sponsors Thursday shindigs
Some drivers frown on Ky.'s Smiley plate