Licking County News

Licking Heights levy back on ballot May 7

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Licking Heights' emergency levy request on the May 7 primary ballot has received plenty of attention since an identical levy request failed by more than 1,000 votes last November.

Local voters will be asked to approve a 10-year, 8.92-mill emergency levy to generate $4.3 million per year. If passed, the levy would cost district property owners about $273 per year per $100,000 of assessed valuation.

In response to the previous levy failure, district officials cut $2.8 million from the operating budget, including laying off scores of teachers and other employees and eliminating high school bus transportation.

Superintendent Philip Wagner said the district has reduced its budget by $4.1 million over the past five years.

He said the staffing cuts following the November levy defeat included two guidance counselors, one gifted teacher, one testing coordinator, more than five additional teaching positions, three groundskeepers, one bus mechanic, five custodians and one supervisor.

Should the levy be approved May 7, Wagner said, no additional program or staff reductions would be necessary.

He said the district would restore nearly all positions that were reduced through the first phase of the budget reduction process in December and January.

High school busing would be restored at the start of the 2013-2014 school year, he said, and pay-to-participate fees would remain the same: $100 per child at Licking Heights High School and $75 at Central Middle School.

Wagner said approval of the levy would ensure several enhancements to the educational program, such as having elementary classes capped at 24 students; enhanced Advanced Placement and honors courses; world language offerings; an additional middle school technology teacher; a college counselor; restoration of an assistant principal at South Elementary School; and additional support for students in need of alternative education.

However, should the levy fail May 7, district residents can expect the loss of 26 positions, including nine elementary teachers, three sixth- through 12th-grade teachers, five special -- art, library, music and physical education -- teachers and nine additional staff members, including testing intervention positions and library aides.

Also, pay to participate fees would increase at the high school from $100 per student, per sport to $450 and at the middle school from $75 to $375.

School board President Richard Wand said based on attendance at levy promotion events, he believes the levy has strong support.

"Overall, I'm relatively pleased," he said, adding that the district would likely organize a community forum to discuss the levy prior to May 7. As of April 19, he was unsure of the date.

Wagner said he hoped a forum would clear up misinformation.

"We have good information and we're happy to share it," he said.

ThisWeek was unable to find any organized political action committees opposing the levy. Wagner said he knew of some residents who publicly opposed the levy, but he did not believe they had formed an official action committee.

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