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Six districts seeking money on May 6 ballot

Taxpayers in six Clark and Champaign county school districts will be asked to decide on levies on the May 6 ballot.

That includes four renewals of existing property taxes, two additional property taxes and one newly proposed income tax.

The two districts asking for more money, Clark-Shawnee and Greenon, have had previous attempts at new taxes fail multiple times in recent years, while the renewals on the ballot have been approved by voters.

Clark-Shawnee Local School District

Voters will decide on a 6.95-mill, 10-year additional levy that would generate a total of about $2.3 million for operating expenses.

The tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $243 a year.

The district said the money is necessary to avoid an operating deficit, which would begin in the 2015-16 school year without new funding, according to the district’s most recent five-year forecast.

That forecast, filed with the Ohio Department of Education in October, shows that the district cut a total of $1.6 million from its existing expenditures in 2011-12 and 2012-13 and has projected it would finish this year with another $1.1 million in savings.

Clark-Shawnee said cumulatively the cuts mean the district has spent $5.49 million less than its original projections for those three years.

“If we hadn’t started cutting in 2011, we’d have spent $5.49 million more by now,” district Treasurer Thomas Faulkner said.

A 7.59-mill operating levy was narrowly rejected by voters in November 2013 after requests for new money failed in May and August as well.

“Over and over we tell them no and they spend our money to put it back on,” said Springfield Twp. resident Mary Ann Schmidt. She said she’s voted down every property tax the district has sought.

The district reduced the millage it’s seeking in response to feedback from more than 250 voters who attended community meetings this winter, Superintendent Gregg Morris said.

“We basically asked, ‘What do we need to do?’” Morris said. “The general consensus was we needed to cut the millage.”

If the levy passes, Morris said some previous cuts could be restored, including high school busing and re-hiring six of the 23 teaching positions that have been eliminated through cuts and attrition in the past five years. If the levy doesn’t pass, he said more staffing cuts could occur and some fees, like pay-to-play, could increase.

When high school transportation stopped in March, some parents expressed concern for the safety of pedestrians and teen drivers at the intersection entering the school’s campus.

“We know we are inconveniencing parents and we are aware of the safety issues,” Morris said. He said the transportation budget was $78,000 per year and was cut only after two years of cuts in other areas.

Morris said state funding, although back up slightly in 2014, is down about $1.9 million over the past five years.

Greenon Local School District

Greenon leaders said the nearly $1.27 million that would be generated by this additional levy will avoid a fiscal emergency. The 4.96-mill, five-year levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $173 per year.

Voters in the district have rejected two operating levies in the past two years after passing a 7-mill levy in 2010.

“The next time you hear someone say that we never vote for new levies for our schools, think back to 2010 when all the good people from this community voted to approve a 7-mill levy,” Angie Mefford-Auckerman wrote in a letter posted to an anti-levy Facebook page this week. “(Fliers) tell us that the district will declare a fiscal emergency by 2016. That is absurd when Greenon is not even in fiscal watch or fiscal caution, the first indication by the state of Ohio of a problem.”

Meghan Anthony, communication coordinator for the district, said the district has saved $600,000 through a building consolidation that will close Hustead Elementary and move seventh- and eighth-grade students to the high school. The consolidation will eliminate 15 positions, mostly through attrition, including four teachers, a principal, secretary, human resources assistant and several custodial and aide positions.

Without the consolidation, Anthony said the district could have faced fiscal emergency at the end of the 2015 school year. The school’s five-year forecast submitted to the state now shows a possible operating deficit of about $1.8 million in fiscal year 2016.

“We bought a little time,” she said.

Superintendent Daniel Bennett said the district has reduced spending and teachers took a three-year pay freeze before eligible employees received a one-step pay increase this year.

“We’ve done all the necessary things we can do,” he said. “Without new dollars we’ll have to start attacking programs.”

The district has identified $328,000 in cuts it says could be made if the levy doesn’t pass. Those include: eliminating field trips, doubling pay-to-play fees and cutting five teacher positions.

Mechanicsburg Exempted Village School District

Voters will be asked to consider a 1.96-mill, 10-year property tax renewal that will generate $189,000 for the district.

The levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $60 per year.

The tax was first passed as a 5-mill levy in 1990, which generated the same amount of money at that time.

“Considering the fragile financial position of the district, it certainly is something that we need to continue to have the community support,” Superintendent Daniel Kaffenbarger said.

Tecumseh Local School District

Taxpayers will vote on two renewal emergency levies for operating expenses.

The 2.81-mill and 4.67-mill levies, each for five years, will generate a combined total $2.1 million and will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $261 annually.

Superintendent Brad Martin said these levies first passed in 1987 and 1995 and have been renewed every five years.

“(Voters) have supported us in the past,” Martin said. “These renewals are essential to sustain the programs we currently have.”

District voters have rejected 11 consecutive attempts at new operating money for the district, including a 12.37-mill additional levy for operating expenses in November.

“The reason I am voting no is that the school district has refused 11 times to listen to the voters to reduce spending by repeatedly ignoring the previous ‘no’ levy votes,” said Phil Hermes of New Carlisle, who has been an outspoken opponent of the district’s operating levies.

Bethel Twp. resident Dennis Kelly said he has also voted no on previous requests for new taxes, but will support the renewals.

“I’m not fighting it,” he said. He also noted that this election is the first time he’s seen yard signs in the district opposing a tax renewal.

Martin said the district has made more than $8 million in cuts since 2004. According to the most recent five-year forecast the district filed with the state, the school has cut about $2.4 million from it’s expenditures since 2011 and is projecting an operating deficit in fiscal year 2016.

The district saw an increase in state funding this year, Martin said, but the money is restricted. One program those dollars can and will be used for is bringing back all-day, every-day kindergarten.

The school board will decide over the next few months whether to place another additional tax levy on the ballot in the future.

Triad Local School District

Triad has a proposed an additional half percent income tax on the ballot that would generate $569,000 annually for two years.

Taxpayers in the district currently pay a 1.5 percent income tax to the district, a combination of permanent and renewable taxes.

The additional money would be used for permanent improvements, including asphalt repair, building maintenance and technology upgrades.

“Everybody else in the county has permanent improvement money and we don’t have it right now,” Superintendent Matt Sheridan said. “These repairs are needed. The longer we wait the more costly they’re going to be. I’m trying to be a good steward of the taxpayers’ money and make these repairs before things deteriorate more.”

West Liberty-Salem Local School District

Taxpayers in the district that straddles Logan and Champaign counties will vote whether or not to renew a 1.5-mill, five-year levy that will generate a total of $151,200 for permanent improvements.

The tax will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $33 per year.

West Liberty-Salem Superintendent Kraig Hissong said the tax was first implemented in 1984 and has since been renewed every five years.

The money is used for technology, transportation and maintenance.

In August, taxpayers approved an $11 million combination levy to do major renovations on the district’s school campus. The state is picking up the cost of the rest of the project, which is expected to cost about $33 million.

Hissong said it’s important to note that this renewal levy is separate from the building project.

“Even though we have a building project, there are still the same exact needs for current operation,” he said.

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