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School board discusses operations levy options

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At its most recent meeting Thursday, April 11, the YS Board of Education returned to the topic of an operations levy to be brought before voters. The discussion was spurred by a March substitute levy that local voters ultimately did not pass.

The substitute levy, if passed at the polls on March 19, would not have constituted new revenue from local voters, but would have combined and indefinitely continued annual revenue already collected by two emergency levies passed in 2015 and 2017, which are set to expire in 2025. The levy failed at the ballot, with 589 votes for and 722 votes against.

District Treasurer Jacob McGrath began discussion of the levy during the financial update portion of the school board meeting. He noted that, although the substitute levy failed, the district has three more chances to put a levy on the ballot —  in November 2024, May 2025 and November 2025 — before the emergency levies expire.

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McGrath added that the district has several options before them in terms of what kind of levy to pursue: another attempt at a substitute levy; a new emergency operations levy; or a new operations levy. If the board pursues one of the latter options, they will need to determine both the amount and the term length of such a levy.

McGrath also noted that a March 28 Dayton Daily News report had incorrectly stated that the district planned to put the same substitute levy before voters in November; he clarified that the school board had not yet made any such plans.

The board briefly discussed the cost of putting a levy on the ballot, as the overall cost of an election is split by the municipalities and entities who put forth ballot issues. The previous March primary election and the forthcoming November presidential election, then, would be less expensive for the district than putting a levy on the ballot as part of a special election in May 2025.

School board President Judith Hempfling noted that some local residents had communicated that the “permanence of the levy” had given them pause in voting for it. McGrath acknowledged that a substitute levy with a fixed term of five to 10 years could be placed on the ballot, but said that, for the district, a “permanent levy makes the most sense.”

“You’re going to need the money,” he said.

McGrath referred to five- and 10-year forecasts he initially presented in November, which noted that, if the permanent substitute levy did not pass, the district would likely begin deficit-spending in fiscal year 2028. At the same time, if the levy did pass, rising costs would mean the district would likely need to pass another operations levy in addition to the substitute levy to eschew deficit-spending beginning in 2033.

“You could do the substitute levy for 10 years, and then … you’re going to need to ask for new money within those 10 years, and then ask for [the substitute levy renewal] again,” McGrath said.

McGrath said that, if the board intends to place a levy on the November ballot, its members will need to decide what kind of levy to pursue by May. The Greene County Board of Elections requires the board to pass a resolution of necessity and a resolution to proceed at its June and July meetings at the latest in order to place the issue on the November ballot.

Board members, noting the number of business items still left on the agenda that evening, opted to schedule a special meeting to deliberate and decide on a future levy before the next regular board meeting in May. That meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 29, 10 a.m.–noon, in the district offices at 888 Dayton St., Suite 106.

District receives music award

Superintendent Terri Holden announced that the district had received a “Best Communities for Music Education” award from the NAMM Foundation, a nonprofit of the National Association of Music Merchants that aims to advance “active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs,” according to its website.

Schools across the country with K–12 music programs are eligible for consideration. In order to receive the award, districts must meet qualifications related to student demographics, teacher qualifications, teacher/student ratios, standards for assessing music education, student participation rates, music facilities, music education graduation requirements, music education budget and student knowledge of music education electives.

“This is not easy to get,” Holden said, adding that the district must reapply each year to continue to receive the designation. “We have some amazing things going on here.”

Holden added that Communications Director Corina Denny had begun recording two episodes of the district’s “Bulldog Blitz” podcast with the schools’ music educators in recognition of the award; see the “What’s New in YS Schools” column for more information on the podcast.

Community comments on petition

During the community comments section of the meeting, several community members spoke in favor of and against a petition that appeared in the April 12 issue of the YS News.

The petition  was signed by 12 former school board members and 84 local residents and was read aloud at the meeting by former school board member Steve McQueen. It requested, in part, that school board members agree to “sign and abide by the Board Leadership Protocols set forth by former board members of the YS School District acknowledging your role and responsibility as a board member,” that the board “fulfill their roles as supervisors of the superintendent and treasurer and cease to meddle in operations that are not their purview,” that board members “including the board president, work with — not against — the superintendent and treasurer” and “engage professional mediation and work to alleviate the dysfunctional workings between board members.”

The petition did not state the specific board actions that led to its writing and dissemination. Nevertheless, some who spoke during the school board meeting lauded the petition as a way for the board’s members to signal their willingness to work together, both amongst themselves and with district administration. Others said they believed the petition, particularly in accusing the board of “meddling” and calling out Hempfling, created, rather than curbed, a spirit of divisiveness.

Some of the community comments on the petition were later submitted as letters to the editor and printed in the April 19 issue of the News in the “Community Forum” section.

For their part, the members of the school board and district administrators did not comment on the petition during the April 11 meeting.

In other school board news:

• Hempfling gave a brief update on the investigation into alleged policy violations by school board member Amy Magnus. The district hired an independent investigator, Janice Collette, on the advice of its legal counsel firm, Bricker Graydon. Collette is a consultant with Neola Associates, a firm that provides policy consultation services to school districts.

According to reports from other Ohio news outlets, Collette has performed independent investigations into alleged policy violations in school districts in Clinton, Hancock, Fairfield and Franklin counties in the last three years.

Collette convened initial interviews with relevant staff April 2–10; a timeline on the results of the investigation was not available during the board meeting.

• Noting the pressing need to move forward with work on the facilities improvement project, the school board opted to postpone discussion of a conservation easement on the grounds of Mills Lawn, first introduced for discussion in March, until July at the earliest.

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