Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Kings to ask residents about levy

Superintendent also wants opinions on possible bond issue

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DEERFIELD TOWNSHIP - As school officials consider a tax increase for the fall ballot and cutting more than two dozen jobs, they announced Tuesday evening that they will soon survey residents for opinions on other possible tax increases.

Kings Schools Superintendent Charles Mason told the district's board of education that he will ask their permission to survey residents of the Warren County school district, not only about a proposed 2-mill operating levy being considered for the November ballot, but also about a bond issue to expand and build facilities.

"We need to take a close look at the entire electorate in the community and not just the school community," Mason told the school board and more than 50 residents attending the board's meeting at J.F. Burns Elementary.

Mason said no decision has been made on the size or timing of any proposed bond issue. In May 2003, voters in the Kings district overwhelmingly rejected a $43 million bond issue for new and expanded school buildings.

The school board will decide April 20 on final approval for $1 million in cuts each of the next two years from the district's estimated $29 million annual budget. The cuts include 27 jobs, including about a half-dozen teaching positions, said Mason.

Board member Bonnie Baker-Hicks, a graduate of Kings schools and former teacher in the district, said budget cuts and the proposed operating levies and bond issue have combined with another costly problem - the $2 million cleanup of toxic lead on Kings school grounds - to form the district's most severe financial crisis in decades.

"We've never had such financial problems," said Baker-Hicks, citing the district's loss of its football and track stadium to the lead contamination from a private gun club that used to operate on the grounds of the Kings junior and senior high school.

Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's $2 million lead cleanup is expected to be entirely covered by federal money, the district is faced with the prospect of replacing the stadium at a cost of up to $700,000.

Mason also said that public meetings will soon be scheduled to discuss the district's facility needs.


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