Tecumseh plans $500K in cuts

Some say voters ‘tapped out,’ others say cuts will hurt district.

Tecumseh Local Schools will eliminate high school busing, trim funding for the Junior ROTC program by 13 percent and cut six to seven teaching positions as part of $500,000 in budget cuts if voters don’t approve a May levy.

“It will have impact,” Superintendent Brad Martin said. “When you start cutting teaching personnel, you’re going to have an increase in class sizes. It will be less one-on-one time and less small group instruction.”

Tecumseh has cut more than $7 million, or 25 percent, from its operating budget since 2004 and the next planned round will bring that to about $8 million. With 381 employees, the district is the third largest in the county, serving 3,000 students, or about 15 percent of the public school students in Clark County.

The district has a 12.37-mill levy on the May 7 ballot that would cost $378 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home. Tecumseh voters have rejected eight requests for new tax dollars since 2004.

If a levy isn’t approved by the end of 2013, it will face deeper cuts, including eliminating art, music and gym at the elementary schools and programs for vocational agriculture and industrial technology. The state might also declare that the district is in fiscal emergency and put the district under fiscal oversight.

“We’d be absolutely at the bare minimum and everything above the state minimum, we’d have to cut,” said Martin. “We’re getting pretty thin on what we can cut and what we have left.”

Bethel Twp. resident Dennis Kelly disagrees. He plans against the May levy.

“These cuts they’ve announced,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of the parents would care less about those issues. They don’t have a kid in ROTC, their kids are already driving to school. If these are the threats, I don’t see how they’re going to pass 12.4 mills.”

Kelly, who once worked at Tecumseh as a ROTC instructor and has two foreign exchange students attending Tecumseh High School, said he has concerns about the efficiency of the district, salaries and benefits for employees, the size of the administration and the quality of the education, as well as the cost of the levy.

“People are just tapped out, I think,” he said. “They’re wondering ‘What am I getting for my money?’ They’re not seeing the results they think they should see.”

Parent Walter Sandy said he thinks the cuts will hurt students in the district. Sandy is the president of the Tecumseh High Air Force Junior ROTC Boosters and father of a high school junior.

Programs like ROTC help students learn about citizenship and community service, he said, and staffing cuts would hurt the district.

“You’ll have bigger classrooms, more kids in classes so the effectiveness of the teaching, the one-on-one teaching that a kid might need, may not be there,” Sandy said.

Both Sandy and Kelly agree that the proposed cuts if a levy isn’t approved at some point this year are drastic. Those include instituting a $758 per sport pay-to-play fee with no caps, eliminating ROTC and Latchkey, cutting more staff members and reducing to one foreign language. Even with those cuts, the state could seize financial control over the district, Martin said.

While some in the community have expressed that state takeover might be a good thing, Kelly said, the cuts would have an impact, including possibly ending athletics with the pay-to-play fees.

“I don’t think anybody wants to live in a district like that,” he said.

State takeover would take Tecumseh programs to state minimums and hurt the district, said Sandy.

“They’re going to strip it down, then we’re not going to have anything,” he said. “But in the long run, we’re just going to have to pay for it anyway.”

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