Thursday, September 30, 2004

Reading schools face cuts

If levy fails, sports and clubs to go

By Perry Schaible
Enquirer contributor

READING - More than $800,000 in cuts will be made in Reading schools next year if voters reject a 6.9-mill levy in November.

The Board of Education has already approved a list of cuts for the 2005-2006 school year if the levy request does not pass. An 8.5-mill levy request failed in March.

"We are running the levy because our expenses are outpacing our revenue, and we need to generate dollars to keep (the district) running," said Superintendent Scott Inskeep.

If it passes, the levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 house an additional $203.23 a year and raise an estimated $1.4 million per year.

"What we need to look at are our priorities," said Reading parent Tom Bemmes, who's helping lead the pro-levy campaign. "If the wisdom and education of our children aren't priorities above cell phones and cable, then there's something wrong."

The school district has not passed an additional levy since 1997.

There's no sign of an organized opposition group in this Hamilton County city.

"It's really to maintain what we have in place and is needed because we've lost a lot of our local tax base," said Treasurer Dan Liming.

If the levy fails, all sports and clubs will be cut from the budget, a technology teaching position, a custodial position and three secretarial positions will be eliminated, as well as three educational aides and other administrative positions.

The district already cut $500,000 after the March levy failed by eliminating one administrative position, two teaching positions, two educational aides, and reducing spending for technology, maintenance and grounds, Inskeep said. Officials said they are trying to maintain academic success, recently demonstrated by an "excellent" rating on the state report card.

"There's a direct correlation between students' achievements and their involvement in their school," Inskeep said. "They both go hand in hand, and this (could) really hurt our school district."

He said in the fall, nearly 70 percent of the 472 students at the senior high school are involved in some extracurricular activity.

Informational sessions will be held every other Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Reading Junior/Senior High School, 810 E. Columbia Ave., until the election. The next meeting is Oct. 11.

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