Written by DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, 03 August 2012 09:41
MILLBURY - Over the last two years, Lake School District members have received many heartfelt words and sympathies. After all, they were the victims of a devastating June 2010 tornado that left seven dead and demolished several homes and buildings, including Lake High School.
But Ed Nagle recalls one condolence that chilled him to the bone. The Lake Township business owner said someone told a local government official that he was sorry about Lake. Not because of the tornado aftermath - but for the financial condition of the schools and the lack of support from voters.
"That statement just upsets me terribly," said Nagle, president and CEO of Nagle Co., located just north of the township administration building of Ohio 795.
"We saw all of the outside communities come in after the tornado and helping everybody out. … And you can't even help yourselves," he said of the outside sentiment.
Lake voters will once again be asked to "help" on Tuesday. On the ballot is a 6.75-mill, three-year levy, which will generate $1.47 million annually, if passed. The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $17 a month.
The August request is 2 mills higher than the 4.75-mill, five-year-levy voters rejected in November. They also voted down 4.75 mills in continuing form last August.
After the November failure, the Lake Board of Education slashed $1.1 million from the budget, including 43 positions and the all-day everyday kindergarten program, to close a deficit looming in 2013. The board also approved closing Walbridge Elementary and selling the 90-year-old building and property.
More cuts are coming if new money isn't approved this year, said board president Tim Krugh.
"We really need to pass an operating levy this year or we'll face serious repercussions beginning in January," he said. "We will be $400,000 in the red in January and without the levy passing this year, there will be no further (tax) collections."
If no new money is approved either next week or in November, the district is expected to have a $2 million deficit at the end of 2013.
Lake has lost $1.6 million this year in state and federal funds, plus $1.2 million that last year's levy requests would have brought in.
Krugh said the need for new money was broached to the community before the tornado struck. The board held four forums and made over $1 million in cuts before asking for new operating money, he said.
"We knew before the storm, before we lost this school that we didn't have enough to educate our students and pay our employees," he said. "This is not a surprise."
Teachers are doing their part by foregoing raises - even step increases - and contributing more to their benefit plans, Krugh said. The formal agreement between the Lake Education Association and the board was approved Wednesday before a media tour of the new high school.
"We have outstanding teachers. That's proven by the fact that we're excellent rated by the state. But in relation to other districts, they are underpaid and they're still willing to step up."
Nagle and other business owners are also stepping up for this campaign. While Nagle doesn't live in Lake, he has strong ties to the district and community.
"I pay taxes to the district and I consciously employ people from this community."
Nagle said he makes an effort to know the Lake school finances and administrators.
"Quite honestly they are doing a stellar job with the funding restrictions that they have had. They had the state come in and analyze their school, practices, their finances," he said. "In summary, the state said 'you're doing phenomenally well. You have one of the lowest pupil expenses in the state and you're still able to maintain student outcomes.'"
Nagle said the levy committee has targeted the 400 Lake School District families that did not vote in the last election.
"This issue's far too important to stand on the sidelines with your head in the sand," he said.
Krugh said he hopes to avoid another round of cuts.
"Obviously, these are tough times, but if we don't educate our children, what future do we have in Lake Township? We have to look at our priorities and choices that we have."
MILLBURY - The Lake levy committee will "caravan" from Nagle Co. on Moline-Martin Road to the new Lake High School on Sunday. Alumni, business owners, parents, students and staff will all drive in the parade.
At the 2 p.m. open house, committee members will host a cookout, which has been funded through donations and corporate sponsors.
There will also be a prayer service, sponsored by the committee, on Monday at 7:30 p.m. in Friendship Park across from the Nagle business.