Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Williamsburg schools levy back on ballot for Aug. 3

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

WILLIAMSBURG - Less than two weeks after voters rejected an emergency operating levy of $651,116, the Williamsburg Local School Board has voted to put the same levy on the Aug. 3 special election ballot.

Williamsburg becomes the first district in Southwest Ohio to return to the ballot after suffering defeat March 2.

"This is not a matter of if this passes, this is a matter of when it passes," board member Terry Frost said Monday night.

"We need the money. I'm not going to sit here and watch this district go down the tubes after the pain we've been through over the last three years."

Since 2000, the district has cut $963,000, including teachers and other staff members, Superintendent Thomas Durbin said.

Despite those cuts, the district improved from "academic watch" on the Ohio school report card (second lowest of five state rankings for student achievement) to "effective" (second highest) during that time.

On March 2, voters rejected a five-year emergency levy to maintain daily operations, 53 percent to 47 percent.

On Monday, the board unanimously voted to place the same levy (part renewal, part new) on the August ballot.

If approved, it would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $110 annually.

More than 40 people attended Monday's meeting, voicing opinions on both sides.

"I don't think when you're talking about budget cuts, that spending $9,000 (to put it on the ballot) is a good idea," said Victoria McAfee, 34, of Williamsburg, who has three children in the district.

William Stephens, 54, of Williamsburg Township said the district pays too many administrators.

"It's not that I'm against the schools,'' he said, "I just can't afford the levy."

The levy will cost the district between $5,000 and $8,000, which the board voted to take out of proceeds from rent from the old high school building, Durbin said.

Others favored the levy.

The board also passed a resolution asking Durbin to develop a list of cuts for the 2005-06 school year if the levy fails.

It was the first board meeting for Mike Arnold, 42, of Williamsburg.

"The community needs to come together and do this, support the schools," said Arnold, who has four children in the district.


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