May 27 • 02:40 AM

Race heats up in Imlay

Budget issues draw seven candidates for three school board seats

April 28, 2010
IMLAY CITY — Voters will head to the polls next Tuesday, May 4, to select three candidates to sit on the Imlay City School Board.

Three residents are seeking two, four-year terms: •Anne-Marie Giglio, •Jake (James) Newton •James Preisel.

Giglio is an incumbent.

Four are vying for one, two-year term:

•Deborah Day

•Greg Dennis

•Elizabeth Murawski •Amy L. Wargo

Murawski is an incumbent.

Foremost in most candidate and voter minds are finances. The district could be looking at a $1.8 million deficit in the 2010-11 school year. Union groups have been asked to make concessions. Supt. Gary Richards is slated to present a balanced budget to the board in May.

Terms for the three seats begin July 1.

Here's what the candidates had to say:

Anne-Marie Giglio and husband Tony have four children—McKenna, 13, Jordan, 11, Andrew, 8 and Natalie, 7. She is an assistant manager at Lucky's Steakhouse in Imlay City.

Giglio was appointed to fill a board vacancy in April 2009. She is the board's current secretary.

She believes she brings a unique perspective to the board as a former employee and parent of elementary-aged students.

"I am dedicated to making Imlay City Schools the very best they can be. I am completely vested here," Giglio said.

"I feel an effective board must have representation at all educational levels to perform at its best."

Giglio believes the district will need employee concessions and some 'outside of the box' ideas to bridge funding gaps.

"We have already cut about 2 million dollars from our budget over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, this means all of the easier, less painful cuts have been made," she added.

In other school matters, Giglio would like to see the community give their time to the school through volunteerism.

Giglio is active in the PTO/PTA and coached AYSO soccer.

Jake Newton and wife Kim have two children, Jake, 15 and Katie, 10. Jake is a manager with the Department of Defense.

"In these trying times it is very important that we have school board members with proven leadership experience," Newton said of his desire to seek office.

"I am aware of the concerns and needs of our students and our community."

He feels cuts are unavoidable but that they should be administered with the least impact on student opportunities.

"Our school district employees need to stick together to make this a family that goes through trying times together," Newton said.

"Cuts need to start at the top and include everyone to an extent that the least amount of jobs are eliminated."

He would like to see the district explore further health cost savings and consolidate administrative jobs.

Newton is an Imlay City graduate and served in the Marine Corps. He is a member of the American Legion and VFW and volunteers his time with 4-H and as a youth football coach.

James Preisel and wife, Kim are parents to Katelyn, an Imlay City graduate and Steven, a sophomore. Preisel is a sergeant with the Lapeer County Sheriff's Department.

He said he decided to put his name on the ballot because it's a critical time for Imlay City Schools and he wants to help.

"Things are so much different than before. It's no one's fault. It's just the economic times that we're in," he said.

"I want to step in and see what I can do."

Preisel said he brings 20 years of experience to the table as a contract negotiator for both the deputies and sergeants at the sheriff's department.

Preisel said he'd like to advocate for more transparency and see the board interact with the public.

"Normal citizens can't be on the agenda and board members don't have to address the public," he said.

"It didn't always used to be that way."

He would also like to see easier public access to board meeting schedules and meeting minutes.

Preisel is an Imlay City graduate. He's volunteered his time as a youth sports coach in football, softball and baseball.

• • •

Two year term candidates:

Deborah Day and husband, Ken, have three adult children, all Imlay City graduates. She owns and operates Day Farms Greenhouse.

Day feels it's time for a fresh face on the school board.

"All the voices seem to be alike. They're not listening to the taxpayers and the parents. It's time for a different voice and a different opinion," she said.

"There's not enough openness between the board and community."

When it comes time to trim the budget, Day believes essential services must be preserved and cuts must be fair.

"You can't cut one and not the other. You can't ask one group to take a bigger cut than the others," Day said.

"All of the unions need to take the same cuts across the board. Administrators are going to have to do their part too."

Day also believes it's important the board communicates more openly with the public. She also feels meetings should allow for more dialogue or the district at least consider hosting forums where parents and residents can ask and have their questions answered.

Day is a board member of the Great Lakes Ice Cream and Fast Food Association.

Greg Dennis and wife Trish, have two children, a one and three year-old. Dennis is a licensed real estate broker and attorney and operates a commercial and industrial construction business. He also sits on the Imlay City board of commissioners.

Dennis said he wants to serve on the school board to ensure the well being of the community and students.

"The school board is one of those boards that's very important in any community. A good school system contributes to a healthy community," he said.

"During trying economic times, it's essential that we give our young people the best possible education."

As for budget issues, Dennis believes potential cuts need to be scrutinized for both the long and short-term effects on the student body.

"Similar to a business, the number one client is the student," he said.

He's of the opinion that the board has done a good job under the circumstances and that he can contribute and help them plan for the long term with his experience in law and as a business owner.

Dennis is an Imlay City graduate, a former Rotarian and Chamber of Commerce member.

Elizabeth Murawski and husband, Kerry, are parents to Rachel, an Imlay graduate and Ray, a sophomore. She owns and operates 4th Street Antiques in Imlay City.

Murawski has served on the Imlay City School Board for seven years, serving as a trustee, secretary, president and currently, as vice president. She also sits on the Lapeer County Intermediate School Board.

"As the longest serving member on the board, I feel it's my duty to stay in office and help see the district through these rough financial times," she said of seeking another term.

"This a good community," Murawski said.

"We have great administrators and great teachers and I want to be a part of a successful school district."

Murawski said she's confident the district can weather the financial storm without hurting educational opportunities. During her presidency, Murawski said the district was able to trim more than $2 million without eliminating crucial services.

"I feel strongly that we don't want to be cutting substantial programs for our kids," she said.

As for other issues the board should address, Murawski believes academic standards should always be examined and improved where needed.

"No district is perfect. We need to be looking at new, innovative ways at making it even more successful," she said.

Amy Wargo and husband James are parents to Kent, a tenth grader and Elaina, an eighth grader. She works as a compliance officer for a local credit union.

Wargo said she joined the list of candidates because she wants to contribute to the school district.

"So often people sit on the sidelines and choose to not get involved," Wargo said.

"I can give a new voice to the school board...a voice for some of the parents who may not have had it before."

When it comes to finances, Wargo hopes that the district can avoid cutbacks that hurt students.

"We can't cut back curriculum in any way," she said.

"We need to make sure these kids are college-ready."

Wargo says the board has a tough job and credits current members for doing their best.

Wargo volunteers her time, with her daughter, at Paradise Animal Rescue in Lapeer County.

• • •

Terms for the three seats begin July 1.

At the polls, voters will also be asked to renew an 18 mill non-homestead property tax levy, which generates about $2 million a year. The non-homestead renewal allows the district to receive the full per student funding amount of $7,151 per student. Passage of the renewal will not affect the millage rate.

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.
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