Cindy Legue and Bob Ruth said they began researching South-Western City Schools' financial information because of repeated levy attempts and cuts to extracurricular activities and busing.

Cindy Legue and Bob Ruth said they began researching South-Western City Schools' financial information because of repeated levy attempts and cuts to extracurricular activities and busing.

The two district residents attended a school board meeting Sept. 14 and proposed more than $5-million in benefits cuts that they said would save extracurricular activities and busing.

Legue said school board members have placed "generous fringe benefits" at a higher value than student interests and safety.

"I'm doing it because it's the right thing," she said. "It's not even about the levy; it's these school board members that have gotten us into this financial mess."

Legue said her children attend private schools.

Her daughter is reaching high school age and Legue said she would like her to attend Grove City High School if extracurricular activities, busing and other cuts can be restored.

She said she is a certified public accountant and budget analyst for a company she declined to name.

Legue and Ruth's research started Aug. 17 with a Freedom of Information Act public records request by Ruth to district community relations director Sandy Nekoloff.

Ruth is a retired Columbus Dispatch reporter. "I've been doing this stuff for 30 years," he said.

His records request asked for Nekoloff's personnel profile and annual department budget.

According to district information, Nekoloff makes an annual salary of $112,983, almost double her salary of $60,342 when she worked for Fairview Park City Schools in northeast Ohio.

The community relations department has an annual budget of $254,064.

"That's how it got started," Ruth said.

From there, Legue followed by requesting benefits information.

She said her findings led her to the conclusion that the district could save money by reducing benefits and eventually restoring extracurricular activities and busing.

"Common sense would tell: I bet there's somewhere else they could have cut," Legue said. "A little common sense goes a long way, and if (schools officials) used more of it, we wouldn't be in this situation."

Legue said she has many records requests outstanding and plans to speak at a school board meeting Oct. 12 with more findings.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," she said. "It's becoming a hobby for me."

Nevertheless, "I'm not an anti-levy person," she said.

She's against the cuts recently made.

"Everyone knows (school board members) are doing it as a scare tactic," she added.

She said her research will cease when she stops finding "wasteful spending."

She said she has no "personal angst" against district officials, however.

"Garside and Wise have my utmost respect," Legue said. "(Garside) has been very receptive. He's not getting frustrated with my tenacity."