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In a unanimous vote Thursday, July 8, the board approved a “resolution to proceed” with a combined 6.5-mill property tax and 0.5 % income tax. (Photo by Carol Simmons)

YS school board — Facilities levy set for ballot

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It’s official.

After months of incremental steps leading toward the goal of putting a nearly $35.6 million facilities levy on the November ballot, the Yellow Springs school board has taken the final move necessary to place the measure before district voters this fall.

In a unanimous vote Thursday, July 8, the board approved a “resolution to proceed” with a combined 6.5-mill property tax and 0.5 % income tax. The anticipated revenue is $23 million through the property tax, to be secured in bonds and repaid over 37 years at an estimated 4% interest, and nearly $1 million a year through the additional income tax.

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The purpose, as approved in May, is the construction of a K–12 school, to house all district students, on the current site of the middle/high school campus on East Enon Road. The future of the Mills Lawn Elementary School property has not been determined should the levy pass.

The millage approved last week is slightly less than the 6.53 approved by the school board in June as part of an initial “resolution of necessity,” which precedes sending a proposed measure to the state tax commissioner and the county auditor for certification. The certification process determines whether the requested tax rates will raise the desired income. In this case, a millage of 6.5 was deemed adequate.

District Treasurer Tammy Emrick has estimated that the property tax alone would cost the owner of a home appraised at $300,000 about $680 a year. Consequently, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay about $453 a year, and the owner of a $100,000 home would pay nearly $227 in additional property tax. The valuation is based on the auditor’s assessment, not market worth.

The personal effect of a 0.5% income tax increase would depend on individual circumstances, but a family making the median local household income of $61,522 would see an annual income tax increase of about $308.

In total, a family making the median local household income and living in a home with an appraised valuation of $200,000 would pay about $760 a year in additional taxes. The state’s Homestead Exemption for seniors and disabled taxpayers does not extend to new levies passed after 2013. The News will post a calculator on its website for residents to plug in their household income and assessed property valuation to determine their individual obligation should the measure pass.

While the life of the property tax is to extend no more than 37 years, the income tax has no set time limit, according to Emrick.

“The income tax levy is for a continuing period of time,” Emrick wrote in an email reply to a question from the News. A large part of the reason, she explained, is to help fund the building maintenance obligation required by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, or OFCC.

The district has agreed to partner with the OFCC in exchange for a state reimbursement of 26%, about $9 million, of the anticipated construction costs. That reimbursement is anticipated in seven to 10 years, at which time it will go toward paying down the bond debt, according to Emrick. During the school board meeting last week, the treasurer said the requested 6.5 millage rate would likely go down after the reimbursement is applied to the debt. She also noted that millage “naturally decreases over time.” The addition of new homes in the district and any increases in property valuation would mean less millage would be needed to bring in the desired $23 million in property tax.

“This is exciting,” board President Steve Conn said after the vote to approve the ballot measure. “It’s been a great process to get to this point.”

In other business from the July 8 school board meeting:

Year end financial report

Separate from the board’s levy vote, the treasurer reported a positive conclusion to the fiscal year, which ended June 30.

The district began the 2020–21 fiscal year with a little over $5 million in the bank and ended with $5.23 million, Emrick reported.

She said that revenue was $600,000 more than anticipated and expenditures came in $600,000 less than budgeted.

“So we had the best of both worlds,” she said.

She has cited an increase in property tax revenue as well as some additional state dollars to account for the income hike, along with a variety of belt-tightening measures and some lower costs during the pandemic to explain the decrease in expenditures.

Change in assistant principal

The board approved the resignation of Cameron McCoy as assistant principal and teacher at the middle/high school effective July 31, and the hiring of Joy Feola as assistant principal effective Aug. 1.

The reason for McCoy’s departure was not stated. McCoy joined YS schools in 2012 as a social studies teacher at McKinney Middle School. He became interim assistant principal of the middle/high school on a half-time basis while also teaching halftime in spring 2018, continuing in that capacity for the 2018–19 school year. The school board took “interim” off his title effective the start of the 2019–20 academic year while designating his half-time classroom assignment as a project-based learning foundations teacher.

Feola, who attended last week’s board meeting, comes to the district from Dayton Public Schools, where she was most recently an assistant principal at the Ponitz Career Technology Center. According to her LinkedIn account, her most recent classroom experience includes two years as a seventh-grade science teacher and four years as a fifth-grade teacher, both assignments in West Carrollton, as well as a year as a ninth grade biology teacher at Chaminade Julienne High School, a parochial school.

She holds a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees from the University of Dayton. The bachelor’s is in middle childhood education, and the master’s degrees are in college student personnel and educational leadership. She holds certifications in middle childhood math, reading and science, as well as PK–12 principal.

The board approved a two-year contract for Feola at a yearly income of $88,116 plus benefits.

She thanked board members and said she looks forward to getting started.

Bulldog Backer Award

District Superintendent Terri Holden announced the recipients of the 2021 Bulldog Backer Award, Stacey and Steve Wirrig, who were in attendance at the meeting.

Reading from a prepared statement, Holden thanked the Wirrigs “for their support and generosity to the students of Yellow Springs Schools,” noting that the couple over the past five years has “contributed in a variety of ways and to a variety of school functions and fundraising efforts.”

The most recent gift was use of their family’s pavilion off Meredith Road for the spring prom.

“From the beautiful venue, to the entertainment, to the food truck, and the photographers, the evening was spectacular,” Holden read. “Through their generosity, every junior and senior was able to attend prom for free. For many of our students, it was their first social gathering in over a year.”

“When our students look back on their middle school and high school careers,” Holden concluded, “the  events that they remember most fondly will likely have been made possible at least in part by the generosity of Stacey and Steve.”

Presenting the Wirrigs with a commemorative vase, Holden and board President Conn told them that the couple’s names would be inscribed on the Bulldog Backer plaque hanging in the board conference room. Past recipients of the award have been Sam Bachtell and Wally Sikes in 2017 and Richard Lapedes and Maureen Lynch the year before.

Standing up for truth

The board unanimously approved a statement decrying the contents of Ohio House bill 322 and House bill 327, which concern the teaching of critical race theory. (Read the full statement, signed also by a representative of the teachers and staff unions, on page 4 of this issue.)

“These Ohio bills … significantly limit the local authority of school districts and the academic freedom of teachers to accurately teach the history of this country,” Holden said.

“It’s pretty frightening,” Holden continued. “Not only to lose local control [of how we teach], but also politically.”

Conn, who is a history professor at Miami University, spoke passionately about the issue.

“This is an important statement for us to approve,” he said, noting that he and other board members had received emails from parents expressing their concerns about the proposed state legislation.

“I am also outraged by this as a professor of history,” Conn added. “It is an attack on the local control of our schools, on academic freedom and freedom of expression.”

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled Thursday, Aug. 12, at Mills Lawn School.

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