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School board names likely tax hike

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Last week the Yellow Springs school board favored a 7.5-mill levy for the November 2012 ballot to bring in new money to the district and offset several years of deficit spending. At their meeting Thursday, May 10, four of the five board members voiced approval for the five-year “emergency” levy, meaning it is based on a fixed dollar amount that does not change with property value fluctuations. The issue was discussion only and will return at next month’s school board meeting (June 14) for official approval of a levy resolution.

Board President Sean Creighton, Vice President Benji Maruyama, and members Sylvia Ellison and Aïda Merhemic voiced support for the levy at the 7.5-mill amount. While board member Angela Wright acknowledged the district’s need for new money, she favored a lower tax amount at 6.9 mills.

Either way, she said, the schools are asking the community for more money at a time of intense economic hardship, and the following year the schools will be asking again to replace a permanent improvement levy that expires in 2013.

“Pace yourself,” she said to the other board members.

But Maruyama felt the board had a responsibility to ask for what they needed.

“My feeling is that by the end of the life of the levy, we should not be in debt, and for me, that’s the 7.5-mill levy,” he said.

The difference between the two rates is not large, and both are at or above the level recommended by District Treasurer Dawn Weller in order to sustain the district for a forecasted five more years with its $2 million cash carry-over intact.

A 7.5-mill levy would generate an estimated $949,000 a year for the district, which would make up for the current annual average $650,000 of deficit spending, and leave room to cover projected salary increases and deeper state funding losses expected over the next several years. A 6.9-mill levy would generate an annual $873,000 for the district, but would build in slightly less room for growth in expenses.

While the levy will cost taxpayers more money, the difference in cost between the two levels is unremarkable. For a property owner whose appraised value is at $160,000 (meaning market value could be slightly higher), a 7.5-mill levy would cost an additional $368 a year; whereas a 6.9-mill levy would cost an additional $338 a year, according to a chart drafted by Weller last month. For the appraised value of a property, go to the Greene County auditor’s Web site, For a chart on the estimated tax increases based on appraised valuations, go to the “YS Schools Page” for the story “Schools initiate new tax levy.”

Currently, property owners in the village already pay a certain level of property taxes for various services. An average property owner in the village, whose property is appraised at $163,000, would pay a total of about $3,068 in property taxes each year, according to the Greene County auditor’s Web site. Of that amount, more than half, or $1,595, already goes to the local school district. The rest includes $565 to the county for senior and children’s services, the library and the hospital, $516 to the Village of Yellow Springs general fund, $219 to Miami Township for roads and fire/EMS service, $132 to the vocational school and $40 to the health district.

The schools have made significant budget cuts over the past two years, but with a cost-heavy budget that suffered like others from the recession, costs still exceed revenue — and Basora said during the meeting that he didn’t see anywhere else to cut without significantly impacting the educational content the district provides. And Maruyama, for one, would like to not only bring the district back into the black but sustain it into the near future.

“District costs have not gone up at nearly the rate of fuel, food and other costs. Relative to the normal cost of living, we’re not doing so bad, and ultimately people will understand and appreciate that,” he said. “It will be very painful if our district is not able to thrive, and that’s really why I’m solidly behind the higher amount.”

The school board will consider adoption of a levy resolution at its next meeting, June 14, at 7 p.m. in the John Graham Conference room at Mills Lawn.

In other school board business

• Shifts in staffing at the YSHS/McKinney Middle School next year will allow for more advanced placement and interdisciplinary opportunities.

At McKinney, Jack Hatert will teach all math and science classes for seventh graders, and Jeff Collins will do all eighth grade math and science classes. Last year Hatert taught McKinney math half-time and served as assistant principal part-time, while Collins taught half-time at the middle school and half-time in high school physics. The school is now looking to hire a full-time faculty member to teach chemistry and conceptual physics.

The new configuration will allow for more project-oriented, interdisciplinary teaching and learning, as well as the use of online open-source texts, videos and interactive demonstrations to supplement text book learning. The schedule shift also allows teachers for different content areas to have a common planning period every day to stimulate interdisciplinary planning and share information about students’ needs.

At the high school, Deanne Holly will teach a new AP calculus class, and dual enrollment will now be offered in government with Shawn Jackson. The high school went from offering four AP courses and no dual credit courses two years ago to now offering seven AP courses and five dual credit courses (for both high school and potential college credit.)

“This is a big deal and something we should be proud of as a district,” Superintendent Mario Basora said at the meeting.

Other May 10 school board business will be in next week’s issue.


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