Sidney voters asked to approve school district’s PI levy


By Melanie Speicher - mspeicher@aimmedianetwork.com



SIDNEY — Registered voters in the Sidney City Schools District will go to the polls on Tuesday, March 15, and cast their votes for a 3-mill 5-year permanent improvement levy.

“I’ve run 15 levies during the time I’ve spent as superintendent,” said Superintendent John Scheu. “A different approach has been taken to run each campaign.”

There are no yard signs promoting the levy, but that doesn’t mean school officials aren’t getting the word out about the importance of the passage of the levy.

“Just because we have a ‘low-key’ campaign doesn’t mean we’re taking anything for granted,” said Scheu. “I’ve given talks and presentations to groups in town. The school website has information about the levy on it.

“The district newsletter has been sent to each home and it has levy information in it. We’ve created information fliers about the levy,” he said. “There are no signs in the yards because of the time of the levy. With the election on March 15, it’s not always easy to put yard signs in the ground. So we decided it might not be in our best interest to spend money on signs.”

The district’s last PI levy expired in 2009. The Board of Education made the decision to let the .8 mill PI levy expire. In 2015, the board reduced the millage being collected for the repayment of the Sidney Middle School Bond levy by 1.2 mills.

The proposed levy PI levy would generate $105 annually on property valued at $100,000. If approved, the levy would generate $1,383,628 per year.

“We hope the voters will look at how hard we have worked to make the district financially stable,” said Treasurer Mike Watkins. “We have a carryover to carry us for several years out. We continue to take PI money from the general fund since we don’t have a PI levy.

“The best approach for our district is to have the permanent improvements be funded by its own levy. That’s what’s been done in the past. With this levy (3-mill), we’re trying to get back to that structure.”

Since the PI levy expired in 2009, the district has transferred $1,450,000 from the general fund to the permanent improvement fund for repairs and expenditures for the district such as school buses, textbooks, roof, door and window replacements.

Pending and known PI expenses for the next five years is estimated at $1.18 per year and include items such as bus purchases, boiler replacements and roof repairs.

The PI levy, stressed both Scheu and Watkins, can only be used for permanent improvements for the district. A permanent improvement is defined as an item with an “estimated shelf life of five years.”

“The permanent improvement levy cannot be used for salary benefits, purchased services or supplies,” said Watkins.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions that the PI levy is going to pay for salaries,” said Scheu. “That is totally wrong. There are specific things the levy can be used for. No salaries will be paid with PI funds.”

Watkins said while the carryover amount for the district is strong right now, that figure will begin to decrease in a couple of years.

“In year three and four of the five-year plan, you see the carryover going down,” said Watkins. “We are using general fund money for the permanent improvements for the districts. We are giving raises, which we haven’t done for several years. Expenses for the district are beginning to increase.

“Our expenses are going up faster than our revenues,” he said.

In the past, said Watkins, state funding has been favorable to Sidney.

“This year, it’s going the other way,” said Watkins. The district had been receiving increases in funding for the past four years. This year, the funding is decreasing.

“The state budget is for only two years,” said Watkins. “We don’t know what the future will bring to the district.”

Watkins said the board of education “didn’t want to ask for money before we have to.”

“Our rate of funding from the state is decreasing,” said Watkins. “The number of students who live in Sidney included in the funding has dropped this year. The student population has dropped our foundation funding from the state by $220,000. We also have fewer kindergarten students coming in than the number of those who are graduating.”

Scheu said he has given several PowerPoint presentations to area groups about the levy.

“We’re not taking anything for granted,” said Scheu. “I think that we have been good stewards of the taxpayer’s money. We have not been wasteful spending their money.”

“The levy is for only five years,” added Watkins. “Give us this opportunity so you can see what we do with it for the district and our students.”

Four years ago, said Scheu, the district had no money and that led to the layoff of teachers, reduction of staff and wages frozen.

“We made a promise during the last campaign that we wouldn’t be asking for any more operating money,” said Scheu. “But if we don’t get the PI passed, we will have to go back for operating funds.”

Both men said they are proud of care and maintenance that has been done on the district’s building. The oldest building in the district was built in 1930; the newest building in 2003.

The need for a PI levy, said Scheu, is there and he hopes the voters will support the needs of the school district and its students.

PI needs outlined

During a meeting in 2015, Eric Finke, Sidney City Schools director of operations and technology, and Watkins outlined the need for a permanent improvement levy for the district.

A review of needs at each of the district’s building was presented by Finke. A five-year plan of repairs/replacement of equipment was outlined.

Emerson Elementary was built in 1950. On the repair schedule for 2017 is to fix the boiler room ceiling, $7,000, cement work on the sidewalks, $6,000, and replace cold water lines, $9,000. In 2018, repairs include roof and gutters replaced, $50,000, and resurface the playground (pea gravel), $50,000.

In 2021, the courtyard doors are to be replaced, $7,000. Flooring is to be replaced in three rooms over a three-year period of 2021, 2022 and 2023 for an estimated cost of $6,500. In 2022, the boiler heating system is slated to be replaced for $80,000.

Longfellow Elementary School was also built in 1950. Projected needs include: cement work on sidewalks, $6,000, replace cold water lines, $9,000, and parking lots, $6,000, all in 2017; resurface the playground, $70,000 in 2018; roof and gutters replaced, $50,000, and courtyard doors replaced, $7,000, both in 2021; flooring in three rooms replaced, $5,000, in 2021, 2022 and 2023; and boiler heating system replaced, $80,000 in 2022.

Whittier Elementary School was constructed in 1950. Projected needs include: cement work on sidewalks, $6,000, replace cold water lines, $9,000, parking lots, $2,500, and tuck pointing of bricks, $3,000, all in 2017; flooring in three rooms, $5,000, in 2017, 2021 and 2022; roof and gutters replaced, $15,000, and resurfacing playground, $50,000, both in 2018; courtyard doors replaced, $7,000, and three-phase electric upgrade, $225,000, both in 2021; and boiler heating system replaced, $80,000 in 2022.

Needs for Northwood Elementary, which was built in 1957, include hot water heater, $1,000, and tuck pointing of bricks, $4,000, modular classroom canopy replacement, $5,000, all in 2017; flooring in three rooms, $5,000, in 2017, 2022 and 2023; roof and gutters replaced, $65,000 in 2018; three-phase electric upgrade, $200,000 in 2021; and boiler heating system replacement, $100,000 in 2022.

Sidney Alternative School was built in 1930. Needs include parking lots, $6,000, tuck pointing of bricks, $8,000, ceiling in basement repaired, $7,000, all in 2017; resurface playground, $80,000, in 2018; roof and gutters replaced, $40,00, and boiler heating system replacement, $50,000, both in 2022; window replacements, $35,000, and door replacements, $15,000, both in 2023.

Lowell Elementary School was opened in 1950. Needs for the building include: parking lots, $6,000, and tuck pointing of bricks, $8,000, both in 2018; window replacement, $30,000, door replacement, $10,000, both in 2021; and boiler heating system replacement, $50,000, in 2023.

Sidney Middle School, which was built in 2003, has the following needs: mixing valve in boiler room replacement, $2,500, parking lot crack fill and paint, $16,600, and lighting in audeteria, $5,000 after DPL rebates, all in 2017; and floor replacements, $50,000, in 2023-2028.

Sidney High School was built in 1960 and renovated in 2004. Building needs include: hot water heater and lines, $300,000, water heaters, $10,000, mixing valve, $5,000, C hall doors-leaking, $3,000, all in 2018; HVAC upgrade in A, B and C halls, $2 million, in 2019-2020; basement cement, $75,000, in 2021; B hall plumbing, $100,000, in 2022; variable frequency drives for 1960 motor, $15,000, in 2023; roof replacements, $425,000, in 2022-2026; and floor replacements, $50,000, in 2023-2028.

Needs at the board of education building, which was built in 2004, include: garage for school vans, $75,000, in 2017; and generator replacement, $25,000, in 2021.

Transportation needs include school vans, $25,000 per van, 2017, 2017 and 2018; and school buses, $100,000 per bus, in 2017, 2018, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Technology needs include: desktop replacements, $800 per seven-year cycle, 125 units, $100,000; mobile devices per year, Chrome and iPads, $150,000; headphones for computers/testing, $15 per child, $50,000 to $73,000, in 2017; switch replacement starting in 2021, five per year, $5,000 after erate; UPS upgrade district wide, $20,000, after $80 percent erate, in 2017.

The service center is where all the maintenance vehicles, salt and supplies are stored. Needs were include roof replacement, $100,000, in 2021.

Watkins and Finke have projected the yearly PI expenses for 2017 to 2025 to be: $883,600 in 2017; $992,000 in 2018; $1 million in 2019; $1 million in 2020; $842,500 in 2021; $903,000 in 2022; $765,500 in 2023; $600,000 (flooring, technology, SHS roofing and windows) in 2024; and $600,000 (flooring, technology, SHS roofing and windows) in 2025.

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By Melanie Speicher

mspeicher@aimmedianetwork.com

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.