Thursday, January 29, 2004

Lakota lists cutbacks if levy fails



By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

LIBERTY TWP. - Larger class sizes, fewer assistant principals, less bus transportation and higher participation fees could be in store for the Lakota Schools if an 11.67-mill combination levy is defeated March 2.

Lakota Board of Education members this week got their first glimpse of what this fast-growing district of 16,347 students is facing as early as the 2004-05 school year without additional dollars.

Superintendent Kathleen Klink outlined 19 items under consideration, including going back to a six-period day at the high school, administrative wage freezes, suspending textbook purchases, increasing instructional fees and returning math and reading specialists to the classroom.

"This is a critical time for us. It is a sobering time,'' said Joan Powell, school board president. "There are no easy answers, no silver bullet to make the pain go away.''

The levy would address two key issues in the district: space and day-to-day operations.

The combination levy includes 9.3 mills that would bring about $21 million annually to district coffers. That, combined with cuts of $10 million over the next three years, would keep the district solvent for a minimum of three years.

Another 2.37 mills included in the single-question ballot issue would provide $84.9 million to be paid back over 28 years and build three new schools and expand or improve others.

But without passage, Klink proposed measures that would increase the average class size in grades K-5 to the state limit of 25.

Transportation could be eliminated for students who go to public or private high school. At the elementary and junior school level, service could be reduced or eliminated for those living less than two miles from their school.

And though the district is expecting 300 to 400 new students each of the next several years the number of teachers would be frozen (reduced in the case of aides).

Board members directed Klink and her staff to spend the next two weeks prioritizing areas to be cut and preparing costs savings for each. The board will again review the list at its Feb. 9 meeting.

Lakota is one of 18 Southwest Ohio districts that have put 19 money issues on the March 2 primary ballot.

E-mail suek@infionline.net




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