Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Little Miami schools face deep cuts

By Michael D. Clark, mclark@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MORROW — School board members are expected to OK $1.8 million in budget cuts tonightthat will slice into almost every part of academics and athletics in the small Little Miami district.

        Board of Education President Michael Cremeans said no one in the 2,855-student school system should be surprised by the personnel and program cuts.

        The district's spring campaign for an emergency operating tax levy stressed the likelihood of such cuts, but voters last month defeated the proposed property tax increase, which would have raised $2.7 annually beginning in January.

        “People were told exactly what would happen. They believe it now,” said Mr. Cremeans, who expects a unanimous board vote tonight for the $1.8 million reductions.

        These will include the installation of a pay-to-play plan that could cost families in the Warren County communities of Morrow, Maineville and Butlerville hundreds of dollars next school year.

        Each high school student will pay $200 per sport and junior high students will pay $185 per sport.

        The reduction package going before the board also includes eliminating seven full-time teaching positions — the district's full-time instructional staff is 250 — and 63 supplemental contracts, which include classroom instructional assistants, librarians and computer lab assistants and 12 coaching positions.

        School buildings, which provide facilities for a variety of athletic and community activities into the evening hours, also will close at 4:30 p.m. beginning Aug. 1.

        Further cuts, including the elimination of some sports teams, could follow should the proposed tax levy, which school officials are targeting for the November ballot, be defeated again.

        “This is something the board does not want to do but the state does not allow us to operate in the red,” Mr. Cremeans said.

        Superintendent Ralph Shell said it's the worst financial crisis in the growing school system since the early 1990s, when a similar pay-for-play program and other cuts were enacted.

        But, he added, the budget woes are “solveable if we can get a levy passed in November.”

        Should that happen, Mr. Shell said, school officials would attempt to reimburse students for sports fees paid to date.

        Most painful, he said, are the academic cuts that will curtail student learning.

        “Those are the kind of things that really hurt,” he said. “It's very unfortunate that children are going to be denied educational opportunities.”

        The school board will meet at 7 p.m. at Little Miami High School, 3001 U.S. 22/Ohio 3 (Montgomery Road) in the school's media center.


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