Thursday, July 20, 2000

3 school districts beseech voters


Budgets, projects at stake

By Walt Schaefer and Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Voters in three Hamilton County school districts will decide the fate of operating levies Aug. 8, while voters in Milford will face another attempt at passing a bond issue to finance building construction and a wide range of other improvements.

        The Hamilton County districts seeking more money for school operations are St. Bernard-Elmwood Place City Schools; Norwood City Schools; and the Three Rivers Local Schools. That district serves the villages of Addyston, Cleves and North Bend, as well as Miami Township.

        In St. Bernard-Elmwood Place, Superintendent Jim Thomas said the district has not asked voters for additional operating revenues since 1994, “while the state's funding formula requires schools to go back to voters for more money an average of every two to three years.”

        However, Mr. Thomas said there is another reason for the 7.86-mill, four-year emergency levy, which, if approved, would generate about $1.675 million annually. In 1999, Procter & Gamble Co., by far St. Bernard's largest industry and source of school funding, closed a Tide detergent manufacturing facility. That reduced school funding last year by $315,000 and is projected to cut school funding by $1.3 million in the approaching school year, Mr. Thomas said.

        While P&G plans to build a new research facility on the detergent manufacturing site, it will not be completed until 2004 and will generate only about $300,000 a year for the schools. St. Bernard-Elmwood Place now has the lowest voted school millage in the county — 34.97 mills per $1,000 of property valuation. The highest millage is in Mariemont, at 85.15 mills per $1,000, officials said.

        If the levy passes, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $228 a year. The levy is needed to maintain the existing level of education and programming. The district has 1,250 students in one high school/ junior high school and two elementary schools, Mr. Thomas said.

        In Norwood, voters will see a 7.68-mill, five-year emergency operating levy that includes the renewal of a 3.4-mill emergency levy at current property valuations. It was passed in 1995. The 1995 levy's millage has been reduced to 2.7 mills over the five-year length of the levy, said district spokeswoman Jo Alexander. The levy also includes an increase of 4.98 new mills to total 7.68 mills. It would generate an estimated $1.6 million a year.

        “We need the money to maintain existing programs and meet the goals and strat egies developed to meet the district's continuous improvement plan,” Ms. Alexander said. There are about 3,000 students in the district.

        The money will not return jobs that were eliminated in an expense-cutting move in January: 12 teaching positions, 15 part-time teachers' aides, a high school counselor, two administrative positions and two secretaries.

        Ms. Alexander said that although the district has received a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, that money cannot be used for operating expenses. It is earmarked for after-school, summer and weekend programs, as well as making school computer labs open to the community.

        If it passes, the levy would cost the owner of an $84,000 home an additional $128 a year, Ms. Alexander said.

        In Three Rivers, Treasurer Scott Hiles said the district hopes voters approve a 7.89-mill continuing operating levy. They defeated an 8.2-mill levy in March by 509 votes. The issue would renew two expiring levies and add 2.9 mills to current costs. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $84 a year, he said.

        “We need this for operating expenses to cover inflation, and to maintain the programs and services we currently offer,” said Mr. Hiles. The district has 2,257 students at Taylor High School, Three Rivers Middle School and three elementary schools.

        The Milford Exempted Village School District returns to the ballot with a 5.3-mill bond issue request for new building construc tion and a wide range of other improvements.

        Voters in March rejected, by a narrow margin, a proposal that organizers saw as essential to the district's goal: a new middle school, bigger classrooms, new gymnasiums, and new science and technology labs.

        That March request lost by 222 votes out of more than 10,500 cast.

        More than 500 students are expected to join Milford's enrollment of 5,600 over the next 10 years, fueled by residential growth in the district, primarily in Miami Township. The need to accommodate that influx sparked a heated campaign.

        Last school year, some students were taught in classrooms fashioned from mobile homes and basement storage areas.

        Next month, voters will again judge the current bond, which would have a principal of $53 million and allow annual payments over a maximum period of 28 years.

        A levy of property taxes would finance the bond, and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $53 per year.

       



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