Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Growth funding sought
Lakota's rising numbers prompt 7.7-mill levy try
By Sue Kiesewetter
LIBERTY TWP. - Tracy Carson isn't happy that there are 29 children in her son's third-grade classroom at Liberty Elementary School.
It's the largest class he's been in since the family moved to West Chester when he started kindergarten. The increased class size and crowded hallways are visible reminders why residents in this growing district, Ohio's largest suburban district, should pass a combination levy Nov. 2, Carson says.
The 7.7-mill levy would provide $12.4 million annually for day-to-day operations as well as $80.3 million to build two elementary schools and a freshman school. It would also allow for the expansion of Lakota East and West high schools. Taxes would increase by about $236 each year on a $100,000 house.
"I hate to see the excellence we've built up go down, and that's what I think will happen if we don't pass this,'' Carson said.
In December, board members approved cuts totaling $3 million. When a larger levy was defeated in March, another $4.2 million was trimmed from this year's budget. Classroom and participation fees that students pay, along with preschool tuition, were increased.
Should the November levy be defeated, the district would be faced with cutting $13 million over the next two years to balance its budget. Board members have said $7 million must come from the 2005-06 school year budget.
"It's critically important to the continued success of Lakota to pass this now,'' said Joan Powell, school board president. "We have no place to put the children who keep coming." Almost 600 new children enrolled in this southeastern Butler County district in the past 12 months, bringing enrollment to 16,938. Another 500 are projected to enter in the next 12 months.
Unlike the March campaign, there doesn't appear to be an organized, visible opposition to the levy, supporters say. But that doesn't mean there aren't opponents.
"I'm against it, but I'm not doing anything this time,'' said Helen Shumaker, who says legislators must address the school-funding issue.
"As long as they keep putting property taxes on and people keep (approving) them, the state isn't going to do anything,'' Shumaker said. "There's got to be a change in the funding, and it's got to come from the state level.''
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