November 24, 2014

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Midview Schools: Big deficit threatens sports, extracurriculars, jobs

EATON TWP. — Sports and other extracurricular activities could be eliminated in the Midview school district if voters don’t pass a levy next year, school officials said Wednesday night.

If sports are eliminated, athletes would be free to transfer to other districts, said David Zunis, school board president.

The complete list of $2.3 million in cuts for the 2013-14 school year will be released in a couple of weeks by Superintendent John Kuhn.

Kuhn spoke of “devastating cuts to staff,” saying more than 40 employees could be let go.

“Personally I cannot apologize enough to the families and the individuals whose jobs will be eliminated,” Kuhn said, his voice filled with emotion.

The school day of 7½ hours could be slashed to 5 to 5½ hours and advanced placement classes and other electives such as French and business courses could be eliminated.

A crowd of about 125 people, including about 25 students, were shocked and upset.

Monica Ondo said her son Jeffrey “could be screwed out of living his dream.”

“My son’s in track; he’s looking at schools, and he wants to go to the Olympics,” Ondo said.

She pleaded for school officials to institute full pay-to-play instead of eliminating sports, but Zunis said that couldn’t take place. Even with the current $550 per-sport cost, the district still picks up 55 percent of the cost of offering sports, he said.

One by one, students got up to speak about the possibility of a shortened school day without activities such as dances, clubs or field trips.

“The special events bring us together as a school,” Molly Albright said.

Trinity Harrison-Clark said students don’t have any say in what will be eliminated.

“This really hurts us,” she said.

Morgan Kubisch said she was frightened about the effect on her future.

“Cheerleading, French Club and Environmental Club can make the difference about whether I get into my choice of college,” she said.

Justin Caitham pleaded for the continuation of the music program, and pledged to help future levy campaigns.

In a meeting that lasted three hours, board members wrestled with issues such as whether spring sports and activities would be eliminated.

They also discussed whether to leave a 9.75-mill property tax levy before voters in a special election in February. The tax would raise $4.6 million a year for 10 years and keep current programs in place for at least four years.

It has been 19 years since voters in the Midview Schools approved new money, and Midview could rank dead last in the state in spending per pupil if the cutbacks take place, officials said.

The possibility of being at the bottom in spending statewide shocked audience member Lisa Carter, who said, “This is ridiculous, it makes me cringe.”

“Leave it on, please,” Carter said of the February special election. “I don’t think it will be a waste.”

In a show of hands, most of those attending wanted the district to try for the new money in February, even though the special election would cost about $32,000.

Board member James Barnhart said, “I don’t think you miss any opportunities.”

Zunis said, “If it does pass, the devastation will be avoided.”

If the district waits until May, the district would likely have to ask for more than 10 mills because of new property valuations, officials said.

In recent weeks, Midview Schools received a letter from the state asking what steps would be taken by the district to avoid looming deficits. The district’s answer is due next month.

The district could be placed on fiscal watch, and the state would make the cuts if it is unable to slash its budget or bring in new revenue.

On Nov. 6, a combination income tax and property tax for Midview Schools failed 5,723 to 3,606, or 61 percent to 39 percent.

In another show of hands, the majority of audience members favored a property tax over an income tax. Some were concerned that some households with two wage earners would be doubly hit by the income tax.

November’s issue would have raised $4.2 million a year for the district beginning in 2013.

Spriggs said the district is seeking $4.6 million a year with the new issue because if the levy passes in February or May, none of the money would be collected until 2014.

The next school board meeting is 6:30 p.m. Dec. 19 in the Midview West Elementary cafeteria.

The next meeting of the Compass Committee, which will promote the levy to the community, is 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Midview West Music room.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.