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Published: Tuesday, 10/9/2012

Teachers, community react to proposed cuts if Perrysburg Schools' levy fails

BY REBECCA CONKLIN KLEIBOEMER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Terri McCullough, left, and Maryann Swartz discuss the Perrysburg School levy. Terri McCullough, left, and Maryann Swartz discuss the Perrysburg School levy.
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Perrysburg Schools teachers and community members are superlative in their comments on the proposed cuts to programs and operations should the levy fail in November, especially at the elementary level.

"If we have to make the level of cuts necessary, it would be catastrophic," said Scott Best, principal of Fort Meigs Elementary.

"The cuts will be considerably drastic," said Kellie Johnson, fourth-grade teacher at Woodland Elementary.

"We're devastated," said Judy Lake, art teacher at Toth Elementary.

District Superintendent Thomas Hosler and Treasurer Matt Feasel recently presented to the school board options to trim $5.7 million from the schools' budget over the next two school years once the current 9.95-mill levy expires and if the replacement levy isn't passed.

Voters are being asked to approve an estimated 13.15 mills that would generate $10 million in the first year. The tax would increase to 14.4 mills in the second year, 15.7 mills in the third year, and 17 mills in the final fourth year.

"I will always invest in the schools," said Terri McCullough, mother of three, two of whom attend Perrysburg Junior High School.

Ms. McCullough said she hoped that people without children still recognized the impact the school system had on the community.

Some folks were concerned about the impact the levy would have on their pocketbooks.

"My husband and I are on a fixed income," said Perrysburg resident Mary Ann Swartz, 70. "We're always worried about finances." Still, she said, the levy probably would get her support.

Under the current 9.95-mill levy, set to expire at the end of 2012, the owner of a $200,000 home pays about $609 a year. The owner of a home valued at $200,000 would pay about $204 more the first year, then about $72 more a year the next three years.

"They're pretty responsible about what they ask for," said Meig McIntyre, owner of the women's boutique Meig in the city's historic downtown.

The current levy generates about $7.5 million for the district, representing about 20 percent of the district's budget, Mr. Feasel said.

He and Mr. Hosler proposed a contingency plan to the board that would mitigate a projected loss of $3.9 million for the 2012-2013 school year and $2.8 million for the 2013-2014 year, along with spending $1.1 million from the district's cash reserves.

Nearly 96 positions in administration, teaching, and support would have to be eliminated, Mr. Hosler told the board.

Some voters said they felt the district was top-heavy in administration or that teachers were overpaid, although they weren't willing to put their name to the record on it.

"The school is not in the community anymore, it's out in the country," one man said.

Lori McClellan, whose husband William has been a property owner in the area for quite some time, waved off concerns that the levy was too much of a burden on the taxpayer.

"If you can afford to live here, you can afford to vote for the schools," she said.

Should the levy fail, adjustments to the school day length, number and frequency of courses, and bus routes also would need to be made, Mr. Hosler said. Cuts in transportation, field trips, and support for sports and extracurricular activities also were suggested.

"We didn't really want to cause additional anxiety for folks .. but things are going to have to change" if the levy fails, Mr. Hosler said.

He said teaching positions would be retained based on state minimum guidelines, whatever else the district can add into the budget, and certification and seniority rankings among teachers.

"There's people behind each one of those numbers," said school board member Barry Van Hoozen.

Some of those very people said that while they understood the financial predicament, the proposed cuts would have a negative impact on students' education and socialization.

"Reducing physical education, music, and art to one period a month would be a huge injustice and disservice to our creative and active students," Ms. Lake said. She has taught art classes for kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Toth since 1991.

Foreign language also was on the chopping block, with a suggested singular course offered as an elective. Tom Przybylski, guidance counselor at the junior high and union president for the Perrysburg Education Association, said about 40 percent of eighth graders take either French or Spanish.

"You want kids to be well-rounded," he said.

Superintendent Hosler told the school board that the proposed cuts were not meant as threats and were steps the district could take to provide what it could within its budget constraints.

"We will do the best job possible for our students," he said.

Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer at rconklin@theblade.com or 419-356-8786.



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