Northwestern school district substitute levy back on ballot for May election

Northwestern Local Schools
Northwestern Local Schools

Residents in the Northwestern Local School District will vote in May on a substitute levy that voters rejected in November.

The district is seeking approval of a 7.16 mill, five-year property tax substitute levy. Money generated from the levy will be used for general operating costs for the district.

The substitute levy represents about 10% of the district’s operating budget and the amount of revenue generated by the levy is $1,715,690.

“It is not a new levy and it’s not a new tax... It’s called a substitute levy but it is the same tax, or the same levy, that we renewed in March of 2016,” Superintendent Jesse Steiner said. “It won’t raise taxes.”

In March of 2016, voters renewed the substitute levy for $1,692,850, and gained $3,193 from construction growth, according to Steiner. The levy is now higher due to new construction, and is expected to gain $22,850 from construction growth.

“The increase in dollar amount between the two levies is due to new construction in the district. Anytime a new and taxable structure is built in the district, it is placed on this levy collection list. It allows the school to collect more revenue without raising taxes on the previous taxed structures,” he said.

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“We’ve actually had a lot of construction in our community and that’s a good thing, that means our community is growing and thriving... That’s a benefit to the district, that allows us to grow financially as our community grows and prevents us from coming back and asking for additional dollars,” Steiner added.

Steiner said the levy is also still eligible for tax exemptions through the State of Ohio, which means the state pays for 12% of the levy, or $205,882.80.

“If this substitute levy is not renewed, the community will lose those tax exemptions and the state funding that goes with that,” he said.

Steiner said if the substitute levy doesn’t pass, the only way to make room in the budget would be to cut personnel.

“To put it into perspective of what that means as far as staff is that if we were trying to cut staff to make up for the loss in revenue from that levy, then we would have to start with our newest teachers and we would cut positions from there and move up,” he said.

If there are not enough personnel to cut to make up for the levy, Steiner said the district would then look at cutting programs that are not essential to getting students to graduate, which could include extracurriculars, such as athletics, marching band and clubs, busing and even high-end classes, such as advanced placement classes.

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Steiner said this levy is “definitely needed by the school” and is “extremely important.”

“This is the substitute levy that we put on last spring, and because of COVID and such, people didn’t know when the actual election was and it failed by I think 12 votes,” Steiner said. “Then we put the substitute levy back on in November and it failed miserably, but we also had the highest voter turnout in the history of our community, over 70% of our registered voters voted in that election.”

According to November election results, 58.54% of voters were against and 41.46% were for the levy.

The school board has talked about the need to pass the levy and what the district would look at in terms of making cuts to personnel and programs, but they have not approved any plan as they plan to “wait and see what the levy does” before approving anything, Steiner said.

“We do a pretty good job of working within our means, we don’t deficit spend... That’s our goal every single year is to adjust our staffing or look for ways to save money so we aren’t asking the taxpayers for more money,” Steiner said. “We hope that people realize the need to keep our school healthy, to keep it running as it is, and the only way that we can do that is by supporting this levy.”

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