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Yellow Springs School Board

Operations levy renewal expected for March

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At its most recent meeting on Thursday, Nov. 9, the Yellow Springs school board voted unanimously to approve a resolution of necessity that will place a substitute operations levy on the March 19, 2024, ballot.

The substitute levy would not be a new cost to local taxpayers, but would combine and continue annual revenue collected by two emergency levies passed in 2015 and 2017; the emergency levies are set to expire in 2025.

District Treasurer Jacob McGrath clarified that, despite the name given to them by the Ohio Legislature, emergency levies don’t necessarily denote that their funds are approved by school district voters because the district is experiencing a fiscal emergency.

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“It means that we were asking for a fixed sum of money for a fixed amount of time toward operations,” McGrath said.

According to the resolution of necessity, if the substitute levy is passed by voters next spring, it will continue to collect $1,975,000 annually for school operations. Unlike the emergency levies it would replace, the substitute levy would not have a fixed term, and would be ongoing.

McGrath said the timing of the levy is important; as designed, the substitute levy would collect a fixed sum of revenue annually from existing school district property owners irrespective of rising property values. However, substitute levies have the potential to collect additional revenue for the school district when new builds — like the upcoming Spring Meadows housing development — are completed.

“The theory with that is that new construction means new students, means new expenses,” McGrath said. “Substitute levies do have an opportunity for growth that’s not there for emergency levies — but it is not an increase for any existing properties.”

Getting the substitute levy on the ballot in spring, McGrath said, would ensure that it could collect the additional revenue from Spring Meadows construction.

Board President Dorothée Bouquet added that, though a substitute levy essentially functions as a levy renewal, it’s unlikely to look that way on the upcoming ballot.

“Even though it’s the same amount of money, and taxpayers won’t see an increase on that … it will show up as a substitute and not a renewal on the ballot,” she said.

Discussion of the substitute levy overlapped with a presentation from McGrath on the schools’ five-year economic forecast, which included an additional 10-year projection of operations expenses and revenue.

Though the recently passed facilities bond issue levy is not part of the district’s general fund and can’t be used for operations, the ongoing 1% income tax that was passed in combination with the bond issue can provide operations funding for the district, in addition to paying for part of the district’s facilities upgrade plan. With both the income tax increase and the potential March passage of the substitute levy in mind, McGrath said the district shouldn’t have to ask for any new operating funds for “quite some time.”

“Without the [substitute levy] you’re looking at 2029 for talking about new money, but if we renew and maintain the funding that we have, we’re looking positive 10 years out,” he said.

McGrath added that the district’s financial projections don’t make allowances for HB 187, a bill passed by the Ohio House in October and currently before the Ohio Senate, which has shown no movement for the past month. As the News reported last month, if HB 187 passes, it could mean lower property tax revenue for Ohio school districts.

“So things can always change,” he said.

Next month the board will vote to pass a resolution to proceed for the substitute levy, which will finalize and approve the levy’s ballot language.

In other school board business:

• Superintendent Terri Holden spoke about HB 279, a bill currently being considered by an Ohio House committee that would require school districts to add seat belts to all school buses.

The bill was proposed in September by Springfield Republican Rep. Bernie Willis after a Clark County student was killed and more than 20 others injured in a school bus crash.

If the bill is passed, school districts would have five years to outfit school buses with seat belts for all passengers. The estimated costs of these upgrades are between $14,400 and $19,200 per bus, according to a fiscal analysis by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission. The bill’s language does not address how districts will fund the mandated upgrade if the bill is passed.

Holden said discussion about the potential legislation is “not just about the cost,” and that public testimony on the proposed bill has also focused on logistical questions.

“In an emergency, who releases kids that are belted in? What happens if a kid’s backpack gets caught in the seat belt? What happens if there’s a fire?” Holden said. “There’s a lot to it; it’s not as easy as saying, ‘Oh, let’s just have seatbelts on the bus.’”

Gov. Mike DeWine formed the Ohio School Bus Safety Working Group in September ahead of the bill’s proposal, and that group is set to make recommendations on the bill by the end of the year.

• The board approved a second reading of the 2024–25 school year calendar, with the next school year to begin Thursday, Aug. 15.

Bouquet noted that the updated calendar includes a professional development day with no school for students on Friday, Nov. 1 — the day after Halloween. Some parents, Bouquet said, have asked that the district institute a late-start day or no school on the day after Halloween when it falls on a school night.

“It happens that it’s perfect — it’s working perfectly here,” she said.

The school board will hold its next meeting Thursday, Dec. 14, beginning at 6 p.m. in the YS High School Media Center.

To watch the Nov. 9 meeting in full, go to the “Yellow Springs Schools Board Meetings” YouTube channel.

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