Sunday, February 1, 2004

Kings schools study levy, layoffs



By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DEERFIELD TWP. - Kings school officials said Saturday that a 2-mill operating levy could be on the fall ballot, and school jobs will be cut even if voters approve the property tax increase.

Budget projections show declining residential and business tax revenues creating a $3.6 million budget deficit in 2006, school district officials said during a Saturday morning work session of the Kings Board of Education. Originally, officials projected a $1.2 million shortfall.

The larger projected shortfall will force Kings to cut $1 million from its $29 million annual operating budget for each of the next two years. It will also require officials to ask voters in 2006 to approve a second operating levy, which is estimated to be in the 5- to 8-mill range.

Nineteen local Ohio school districts have placed funding issues on the March 2 ballot, but Kings is the first to detail its levy plans for the November ballot.

The school board has until August to approve the operating levy millage for the November ballot and if they choose the 2-mill option, and voters approve, it will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $61 per year in school taxes.

Kings Superintendent Charles Mason said the news has strengthened the resolve of officials in the 3,800-student school district to continue improving fiscal management while maintaining the district's academics"It's going to be hard for the community, and hard for the staff, but people will have confidence that we are doing the best we can," Mason told the school board.

The new budget shortfall and announcement of two proposed levies, comes in the wake of last year's defeat by Kings voters of a $43 million school bond issue to renovate school buildings in the fast-growing district.

"We have to be able to show folks in the community that we have revisited the way we do business but not while losing our excellence," Mason said.

School board members are still reviewing both the preliminary tax issue options for November and 2006, and possible school staff reductions, and no board vote is scheduled on either.

In August, toxic lead was discovered on Kings school grounds and a $2 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleanup is scheduled to begin this month and finish June 30. A September windstorm also caused more than $300,000 in damage to Kings' bus fleet and closed school for two days.

E-mail mclark@enquirer.com




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