Caldwell Seeks Replacement, Additional Levy

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Since voters in Caldwell's school district, which includes part of Washington County, approved a 12-mill, five-year replacement levy in 2008, a lot of things have happened to make the school system's budget even tighter than it was. At the top of that list is the recession.

"A lot of it got taken away with the state funding cuts, once the recession hit," says Jeff Croucher, School System Treasurer. "We used stimulus money, and once the stimulus money expired, it wasn't replaced with the money they've given us. We've also lost a good bit of money with the tangible personal property cut the state made several years ago."

The levy approved five years ago was an increase from 7.5 existing mills. Now, in addition to renewing the 12 mills the board of education is seeking seven additional mills of funding. If the issue doesn't pass next Tuesday, the district plans $920,000 in staffing and program cuts, including bus routes, teacher aides and special needs classes.

"We'll be reducing several staff positions at the elementary schools, which will make class sizes larger," says Dora Jean Bumgarner, Interim Superintendent. "We will have less offerings at the high school, which is not good for our kids."

The last of a series of general public meetings on the issue was held Monday night.

"We've had focus group meetings, we've had meetings of large public groups," Abby Crock, Board of Education President, said Monday. "We've gone to the nursing homes and senior apartments at different towns within the district."

Caldwell is not the only school system in Noble County. But levy supporters say combining administrative and staff costs mean consolidation with the nearby Noble Local School District would not save as much money as would seem possible.

There is one other ballot issue in the region.

Trimble Local Schools, covering parts of Athens and Morgan counties, has a five-mill levy on the ballot next Tuesday, which would pay for general improvements.

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