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Huron considers drug testing

Alissa Widman Neese • Jul 16, 2014 at 8:51 PM


Huron Schools could implement a drug testing policy for its students as early January.

This past spring, the district formed a task force to discuss possibly partnering with Sport Safe Testing Service Inc. to obtain the services.

Task force members Steve Camella, the district's athletic director, and Lynne Gast-King, Sandusky prosecutor, addressed school board members at a meeting Tuesday to reveal the group's initial findings.

"A coach brought up the topic at an athletic council meeting, so we've begun pursuing it," Camella said.

The concept is in its infancy, they said.

The group must determine how many students, as well as which student privileges — participating in sports or extracurricular activities, securing a parking pass or others — would require testing.

"We need to all be in agreement before we move forward," Camella said.

The pros of student drug testing, according to the task force: It could deter students from using drugs, or give them ammunition against peers pressuring them to use drugs.

The cons: It's costly to test every student, and random testing doesn't guarantee frequent drug users will be tested.

Tests would cost $28 a student with Sport Safe Testing Service Inc. and would detect alcohol, amphetamines, barbiturates, prescription pills, cocaine and marijuana. To upgrade to tests that detect performance-enhancing drugs or tobacco, the services would cost more.

Board members discussed the matter for nearly a half hour Tuesday.

Board member Tim Sowecke agreed to meet with the task force at a later date to continue discussions and relay questions from other board members.

They encouraged community members to come to the next school board meeting, on Aug. 19 at 6 p.m., to voice their opinions.

"It would be great to see this room full of parents and community folks asking questions," Sowecke said.

The earliest a drug testing policy could take effect at Huron Schools would be January 2015, or possibly at the start of the 2015-16 school year, Camella said.

Several districts across the state already conduct random drug tests on students of various ages, including Margaretta, Port Clinton and Vermilion schools locally.

November levy

Also at Tuesday's meeting, all five board members agreed to officially place the district's renewal tax levy on the November ballot.

Voters first approved the measure in 2009.

If approved again, the 1.25-mill, five-year emergency operating levy would not increase taxes from current rates.

The levy currently costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $38 a year, according to the Erie County Auditor's Office.

In turn, it generates $400,000 annually for Huron Schools general operations. The district's total operating budget is about $15 million a year.

The Citizens for Huron Schools levy committee plans to reconvene for a meeting on Aug. 27 at 6 p.m. in McCormick Junior High School's auditorium, superintendent Dennis Muratori said. They will begin campaigning soon after.

Tax abatement OK'd

Additionally, all five board members agreed Tuesday to grant a 15-year, 100 percent property tax abatement to Central Ohio Paper and Packaging Inc., a Sandusky business that plans to relocate to Huron's corporate park off Rye Beach Road.

The business plans to employ 23 individuals, and Huron Schools will receive $8,500 each year for the deal.

Huron city manager Andy White presented the proposal to board members Tuesday. During the discussion, Muratori suggested board members earmark the annual gifted funds to be used toward future technology purchases.

Huron Schools renewal levy

•1.25-mill, 5-year tax levy.

•Will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $38 in taxes a year, not increasing taxes from the amount currently paid.

•Will generate $400,000 a year for day-to-day district operations, including employee salaries and benefits.

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