YS school facilities— BOE weighs levy ask
- Published: June 27, 2021
Having last month approved a $35.5 million master plan to construct a K–12 school at the middle/high school campus on East Enon Road, the Yellow Springs school board is nearing a decision about a levy measure to support the project.
The board plans to vote on a yet-to-be-finalized proposal in a special meeting Friday, June 25, after having discussed the financial variables during the district’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting June 10 and in a special meeting Tuesday morning, June 15.
Given the focus of the discussion, local voters likely will be presented with a ballot measure in November that combines a new property tax with an increased income tax.
Specifically, the board ended their Tuesday meeting having honed in on an approximately 6.4- to 6.5-mill bond levy combined with an additional 0.5% income tax. They left the exact numbers to district Treasurer Tammy Emrick to propose for the anticipated June 25 decision.
According to a chart prepared by Emrick, a 6.4/6.5-mill levy would bring in just under $23 million, and cost the owner of a $300,000 home, about $680 a year. Millage rates are based on 35% of assessed property value. The income tax increase would make up the rest of the $35.5 million, she said.
Emrick said that according to the county auditor, each 0.25% earned income tax supports about $6.85 million borrowing and each 1-mill supports about $3.53 million.
District leaders have suggested that a combined tax measure spreads the tax burden among more community members than just property owners.
What’s more, a property tax alone is not an option for this project, Emrick said Tuesday morning, echoing financial attorney Rebecca Princehorn, from the district’s legal firm Bricker & Eckler, who addressed the board during their June 10 meeting.
A bond levy of 10.11 mills would be necessary to raise the desired project amount, but that millage level would cause the district to exceed its debt limitation as set by the state, Princehorn explained. The most millage the district can currently acquire toward securing new bond debt is 6.8, she said.
The income tax needed to supplement that amount is 0.5%. Income tax levels can only be adjusted in 0.25% increments. With a 0.5% income tax increase on the table, the possible millage range to reach $35.5 million is 6.22 to 6.8, Emrick said. The main question facing the school board is where they want to land between those numbers, she noted.
“Basically, the minimum we need [from property tax] is $22 million,” Emrick said Tuesday. A millage of 6.39 would bring in $22.5 million; 6.53 would bring $23 million; and 6.8 mills would draw $25 million, she said.
While Princehorn noted that higher millage rates are more attractive to investors, as the bonds are deemed more secure, Emrick said she didn’t think the district needed to seek the highest amount available to it, bringing in $3 million more than the project needed. She added that the millage figures were already conservative and could absorb a shortfall in income tax revenue, should it occur.
“I think we’re still going to be covered if we don’t go to 6.8 [mills],” Emrick said.
Board member Sylvia Ellison said she liked the treasurer’s suggestion to focus on a 6.4/6.5 millage level, mid-range of the available options related to the proposed project’s costs.
“To me, it seems like a good mix of both the property tax and the income tax,” Ellison said.
Board President Steve Conn agreed.
“It seems like the best thing we could do, maximize the cheapest we can borrow,” Conn said.
Conn also noted that the district is proceeding on the assumption that the bond interest rate will be at about 4%, a little higher than rates recently secured by other area school districts.
“We won’t know what that is until we go to sell the bonds in January or February 2022,” Conn said. “My hope is we will be able to sell the bonds at a cheaper rate than 4%.”
In other recent school board business:
Also Tuesday morning, the board approved a final agreement with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, or OFCC, to pursue the construction of the proposed K–12 facility at the East Enon Road campus. The project agreement includes the promise of a 26% reimbursement from the state, eventually knocking more than $9 million off the anticipated $35.5 million price tag, if the future ballot issue passes.
The agreement also requires that the district eventually adopt a 0.5-mill maintenance measure, but allows a delay in establishing the funding until the state reimbursement has been received, which isn’t expected for seven to 10 years. Emrick said the mandate includes strict limitations on how the income can be used, characterizing its purpose as being for “catastrophic” needs, such as a system failure, rather than general upkeep.
“Delaying this does not mean we’re not going to maintain our buildings,” Emrick said.
Financial uptick continues
In her monthly financial report during the board’s June 10 meeting, Treasurer Emrick said that the fiscal year, which ends June 30, appears to be heading for a better-than-expected finale.
“When we started the fiscal year, it seemed pretty dismal,” she said, noting that a turnaround in deficit spending continued through the end of the school year.
As of May 31, the district was about $500,000 over revenue projections and $675,000 under projected expenditures.
“It’s very possible we will end the year with more than we started,” Emrick said, adding that the district had $5 million in the bank last summer. She credited the increase in property tax revenue as the primary source.
“If the revenue hadn’t picked up, it would have been a very different story,” she concluded.
Student Services Director Donna First reported that more than 100 students signed up to participate in the district’s summer programs, which began last week and continue through the end of June. She said that 44 students enrolled in the tennis clinic, 69 enrolled in the art camp and about 50 enrolled in the academic programming.
First said that nonteaching classified staff participated in a two-day diversity training provided by NCCJ of Greater Dayton earlier this month. She also announced that a team of 12 teachers will be working over the summer on curriculum/standards mapping with a consultant from the Montgomery County Educational Services Center. And the district is also providing three days of PBL 101 training, in Project-based Learning, for 15 staff members who are either new hires or have not yet had the training. In addition, the principals and superintendent will be attending the four-day PBL World conference held by Buck Institute.
The board accepted the resignation of fifth-grade teacher Cheryl Lowe effective the end of the 2020–21 school year, and approved the hiring of Ashlee Mischier as an intervention specialist at Mills Lawn for the 2021–22 academic year.