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Schools discuss longer levies

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One of the school district’s operating levies will expire this year, and the school board considered several options for renewing the levy, at the current tax rate, at their meeting Dec. 11. Based on a recommendation from district Superintendent Mario Basora and Treasurer Dawn Weller, the board voiced an inclination to renew the levy but change it from a five-year to a 10-year levy. The longer levy means the district would mount fewer levy campaigns, which Basora said distract from the district’s primary job of educating children.

The board made no decision this month, but will take the issue up again in January, when members will need to meet twice and approve two resolutions if they want to get a levy on the ballot in May 2015.

The school’s current 8.25-mill emergency operating levy, one of three emergency levies that supports the local district at its current level of funding, is set to expire at the end of 2015. The five-year levy, which generates $1,060,000 for the district, has been renewed at least twice. Renewing again at the current millage rate, meaning no new taxes, made sense to both Basora and Dawn Weller, particuliarly because recently Ohio eliminated the homestead rollback tax credit for all levy replacements, or levies for new money. Therefore, keeping the current millage rate is the only way for homeowners to retain the 10 percent, and for some an additional 2.5 percent, credit they currently receive on their tax bill.

However, according to the two administrators, the other two five-year levies that expire in 2017 and 2018 will also need to be renewed, which means for each levy, making a budgetary case for voters, getting official board approval, mounting a levy campaign and other administrative necessities. Repeating such work every few years is “fatiguing” for both school staff and voters and distracts the district from its primary work of educating, Basora said.

Instead, they recommended that the district continue the levies, but extend them from five to 10 years. They also presented several other combined levy options of various length for the board to consider for future years. All options assume the current millage rates and would not raise taxes.

Put in context, currently, the district is funded by five local property tax levies. The first is a “current expense levy” with no time limit, which guarantees the district at least 20 mills (or $20 for every $1,000 of taxable value.) and currently generates $2.52 million per year. The second is a 2.4-mill bond levy that brings in $297,000 and is set to continue until 2027. The next three levies, a permenent improvement levy and two emergency operating levies, have each been renewed separately by voters every five years. The permanent improvement levy generates $138,000 and expires next in 2018. The 7.3-mill operating levy brings in $915,000 per year and expires in 2017, and the other 8.25-mill operating levy for $1.06 million is the one that expires next year.

The first option would be to renew the current 8.25-mill operating levy for two years, at which point it will expire the same year as the other operating levy, and the two can be combined into a single five- or 10-year levy with no new taxes. Weller’s concern with that scenario is the risk the district takes if it loses both operating levies at once.

The second option is to renew the 8.25-mill levy for seven years and the other operating levy for five years, at which point (in 2022) they would again expire simulaneously and could be combined. The advantage there being that voters might be more aware of the homestead rollback issue by then and would have a better understanding of the need to combine levies.

Option three is to simply renew both operating levies when they expire in 2015 and 2017, respectively, for an additional five years. And option four would have the district renew the two operating levies when they expire for an additional 10 years. Basora recommended the fourth option.

“Option four is the safest option,” he said, clarifying that it would guarantee the district the current level of funding and reduce the amount work needed to secure it every five years.

The board acknowledged the strain levies present and expressed support for the fourth option.

Though the current levy schedule does not include an increase in millage, Weller stated that the board “should always keep in mind that these two emergency levies may not sustain us” forever.

The board will consider a resolution of need to renew the current 8.25-mill operating levy for 10 years at its regular board meeting on Jan. 8.

In other school board business:
• Basora reported that the state is scheduled to release a request for proposals for the standardized testing waiver on Jan. 15.

• Becky O’Brien announced her retirement from Mills Lawn after 25 years of teaching, 17 in Yellow Springs.

Barb Greiwe, supervisor of the district’s special education program, announced that she is retiring at the end of the year to spend more time with family and do advocacy work. She has been with the district for four years, commuting from her home an hour away.

The schools hired Demitria Wall as a part-time special education instructional aide.


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