Saturday, October 30, 2004
Clermont district makes third try
Northeast schools face cuts, deficit; rating on the line
By Cindy Kranz
Enquirer staff writer
STONELICK TWP. - The stakes are higher in the third levy attempt this year for Clermont Northeastern Schools, where a loss at the polls would trigger elimination of high school busing, sports and other extracurriculars, effective Jan. 3.
The district seeks a permanent improvement levy that would raise $1.2 million a year for maintenance of buildings and grounds, as well as updating technology and textbooks. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay an extra $150 annually.
"We do need new things such as new computers and new textbooks, and we also need this money for the day-to-day operations," said Ralph Shell, interim superintendent. "The teachers in this district are the lowest paid in Clermont County."
It's crucial to pass the levy, Shell said, because the 1,900-student district is staring at a large deficit in the future. The district faces a $150,000 deficit next year, but with no new income, that rises to $5.5 million by the end of fiscal year 2009.
Even so, Shell knows passing a levy at CNE is a hard sell.
"I think this district has a history of having difficulty in passing school issues, because so much of this district is agricultural, and it does put a burden on the farmer when you ask for property tax," he said.
Also a factor is the district's Continuous Improvement rating on the state's Local Report Card. Of nine school districts in Clermont County, only Clermont Northeastern is not in the Effective or Excellent category.
"I've talked to quite a few residents who say, 'We're not going to vote for it until you improve academically.' That's a big factor, and we are working diligently to try to do it. I've told the staff our academic standing is totally unacceptable."
The district's performance perplexes Shell. According to the Ohio Department of Taxation, Clermont Northeastern is in the top 30 percent statewide in terms of household income, Shell said.
What's more, of Clermont County districts, Clermont Northeastern has the lowest number of economically disadvantaged students - 7.3 percent.
"There is just absolutely no reason for us to be in this academic situation ... The data is there."
As a result, Shell is working with teachers on changing lesson plans and the way they teach.
Meanwhile, Cindy Huxel, co-chair of the Growing Our Future levy committee, feels more confident this time around. Initially, she said, voters just weren't familiar with the need for the levy.
"Not knowing what it was that they were to vote for, they had a hard time supporting it, but they've come out and sought the information and the answers about why we need it."
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