Sidney tax renewal on Tuesday ballot

By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — Registered voters who live within the Sidney City Schools district are being asked to approve the renewal of a 9.23 mill emergency property tax levy on the Tuesday, Nov. 6, ballot. The length of the levy is 10 years.

The renewal levy will generate $4,417,364 for the district’s general fund. The levy is designated to generate a fixed dollar amount of taxes every year. For each $100 of property valuation, the district will receive .923 cents. Property with a value of $50,000 will generate $141.33 annually in taxes for the district. A property valued at $100,000 will see the owner pay $282.67 in taxes annually. These totals include the rollback of 10 percent and homestead of 2.5 percent for reductions to the taxes.

The 9.9 mill emergency property tax levy was originally approved by district voters in November 2009. It was renewed in May 2014. The original levy raised $4,550,691 for the district. Property owners are currently paying $151.59 in taxes if the property is valued at $50,000; $303.19 if the property is valued at $100,000. These totals include the rollback of 10 percent and homestead at 2.5 percent for reductions to the taxes.

“The last time we renewed (in 2014), we reduced the amount of millage we asked for,” said Sidney City Schools Treasurer Mike Watkins. “We reduced the millage so we would collect the same amount we did with the 9.9 mill levy.”

A change in state legislation is allowing the district to ask the voters to approve the levy for a 10-year period as opposed to the originial 5-year period.

“Funds from the levy go into the general fund,” said Watkins. “They are used for the general operations of the district and it’s not restricted as far as what the funds are used for.”

General operating funds, he said, are used for salaries, benefits, utilities, supplies, capital purchases, technology and other expenses associated with district operations. A portion of the funds is also used for pernament improvements.

“We do transfer some of the general operating funds into the pernament improvement fund since we don’t have a PI levy,” said Watkins. “The PI funds cannot be spent on salaries or benefits.”

“Passing the levy on Nov. 6 is the best case scenario we can ask for,” said Watkins. “It will be business as usual if it’s passed. As far as not making cuts in operations, we’ll be evaluating what needs to happen next.”

The district’s five-year forecast shows the district in the red by the year 2022.

“We will be looking at how we can restructe and save money for the next three to fice years,” said Superintendent Bob Humble. “The five-year forecast shows we’ll be out of money four years out.

“If thelevy doesn’t pass on Nov. 6, it will be devastating for the district,” said Humble. “There’s no way the district can absorbe a $4 1/2 million loss of funds.”

The current levy will expire at the end of the year, but collections will continue through fiscal year 2020.

“If it fails, we’ll lose $2.2 million from the budget in 2019 and $4.4 million in 2020,” said Watkins. “If that happens, it’s going to be ugly for the district.”

The current levy includes two property tax credit rollbacks for homeowners. There is a 10 percent rollback and a 2.5 percent rollback. If the levy isn’t approved and a new levy is placed on the ballot, the rollbacks would be lost to property owners.

Humble, Watkins and members of the levy renewal committee, which is being led by Mike Dodds, have been telling district voters how important the passage of the levy is the district and what devestating results it could have if it’s not approved.

And the passage of the levy will only help the district for three to five years.

“This levy doesn’t get us passed 2 1/2 to 4 years,” said Humble, of the district’s need for “new” money. “It’s been nine or 10 years since the district has asked voters for additional money. And that’s unheard of with the way school funding is today.

“If the levy is passed, it will be three to five years before we need new money” to operate the district, said Humble.

“It’s all about timing,” said Watkins. “In the next five years, we can’t cut enough to make the budget balance if the levy isn’t approved. The results of this vote will be dictating the money we will need in the future. If we ask sooner in the five-year forecst. If we ask for new money sooner in the forecast, it will be at a lower millage. If it’s closer to the deficit, then the higher the millage would be.”

Humble, who became the district’s superintendent on Aug. 1, said many people in the district have reached out to him in the days prior to the election.

“They’re telling me they’re voting,” said Humble.

Community support for the levy, he said, has come from the city of Sidney, the Workforce Partnership of Shelby County, several businesses, the Shelby County Democratic Party, along with the district’s mom, dads and grandparents.

“We received 800 levy signs and we had handed out 600 of them within two days of receiving them,” said Humble. “That’s a positive indication of the voters’ support.”

“The staff has donated $8,000 to the levy committee,” said Tiffany Rank, communications coordinator for the district. “And that’s on top of the $27,000-plus they’ve donated toward the United Way campaign.”

Humble said any questions concerning the levy can be addressed to Watkins, Rank or himself.

“The $66,000 casino money doesn’t go far with out $35 million budget,” said Humble.

By Melanie Speicher

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.