School districts to vote on levies

By Aimee Hancock -

SIDNEY — Voters in three local school districts will decide the fate of three levy proposals when they head to the polls on Tuesday, May 7.

Russia Local School District

Russia Local School is asking voters to pass a renewal of an 8-mill levy that was originally passed in 2004, replaced in 2009, and renewed in 2014.

According to Superintendent Steve Rose, this levy, which generates approximately $350,000 in revenue, is used for general fund expenses.

“I would encourage everyone to please vote on May 7,” Rose said. “We ask for your continued support; these funds are vital for our current day-to-day operations of the school.”

The State of Ohio is subsidizing this levy by giving a 12.5 percent tax break to residents through the Property Tax Rollback (10 percent) and the Homestead Exemption (2.5 percent), Rose said.

In 2013, the State of Ohio did away with these two subsidies on new levies, but existing levies were grandfathered. This means if the levy dollars were altered in any way, the community would lose these exemptions, and the taxpayers of Russia Local School District would be required to pay an additional 12.5 percent without the district receiving any additional revenue.

Rose noted that the district has decided to change the “traditional 5-year renewal levy” to a “continuing levy.” This guarentees the 12.5 percent tax subsidy, while also making the levy permanent.

By making the levy permanent, Rose said, the district will save election expenses of $500 to $1,000, which is the typical cost accrued by the school district each time a levy is put on the ballot for renewal or replacement.

Fort Loramie Local School District

Fort Loramie Local School is asking voters to pass a renewal of a 5-year, 1.5 percent income tax levy for the purpose of current expenses. The levy has been renewed twice, in 2009 and 2014.

According to Superintendent Daniel Holland, the income tax brings in approximately $1.75 million per year in revenue, accounting for around 22 percent of the district’s general fund budget.

“(This levy’s) renewal is critical to our district’s continued success,” Holland said. “Losing this type of revenue would be a catastrophic loss to our school’s operation.”

Holland stated that in 2009, the district received 62 percent of its funding from the state, which has decreased since then to 51 percent.

“The renewal is obviously needed in order to continue to provide the quality of education we have grown to expect in this community,” Holland said. “This expected quality of education resulted in our district continuously being ranked in the top 5 percent of school districts in the state of Ohio.”

Holland said the district continues to operate within its means. This includes continuing to monitor its revenue and expenditures while striving to be as fiscally conservative as possible.

He added that the income tax revenue has allowed the district to complete energy-saving projects, as well as pay off financing debt for the new school building ahead of schedule.

“The initial debt was $1.6 million at a 6 percent interest rate commencing in 2007,” he said. “It was paid off in November of 2015. The original debt was anticipated to be paid over 15 years; it was paid off in 8 years.”

Graham Local Schools

For the fourth time since 2017, Graham Local Schools is asking voters to pass an earned income levy for operating expenses. The May 7 ballot will include an additional one percent, five-year earned income tax expected to generate $2.076 million annually.

Last November, Graham’s levy failed 54 percent to 45 percent.

If the levy fails next month, Graham Superintendent Kirk Koennecke said, the district’s need will not go away and the board will return to voters again seeking their help.

The earned income tax is a tax on earned income only. This is income people receive from wages, salary, self-employment income, tips and other compensation. It is not funds people receive from property, social security, retirement, pensions, interest, dividends, disability, workers’ compensation, welfare or child support.

Following the levy’s failure in May 2018, $1.5 million in cuts were made to the district’s operating budget. Koennecke said the levy passing can reverse these cuts, which included 15 classified staff members who lost jobs, staff positions being suspended, transportation routes being eliminated and increased fees for pay-to-participate activities and preschool.

If the levy fails next month, Koennecke said, an additional $600,000 would be cut from the district’s operating budget, including more cuts across the board in all buildings for supplies, equipment and materials.

Despite the levy’s previous failure, Koennecke said he is optimistic about the district’s parents and level of understanding of the school’s financial need.

“I think when our parents, our grandparents, our guardians, when they engage with us and they see what’s going on here, I think that they support us,” Koennecke said. “Over the last two and a half years, I have watched that support grow with every election and what that really means is that people are engaging and learning about what we’re doing and what we’re about. “

Other levies

• The Village of Versailles is seeking a 5-year income tax renewal of 1.5 percent, beginning Jan. 1, 2020, to go toward street reconstruction and major repair purposes, including storm drainage, sanitary sewer, and waterline improvements.

• The Logan/Champaign Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Services is seeking a 2-year, 0.3-mill levy, beginning this year, to go toward additional current expenses.

• Logan County is seeking a 5-year, 2.15-mill children’s services levy replacement with increase, to begin this year.

By Aimee Hancock

Reach the writer at 937-538-4825. Information regarding the Graham levy was provided by Urbana Daily Citizen reporter Nick Walton. He can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4825. Information regarding the Graham levy was provided by Urbana Daily Citizen reporter Nick Walton. He can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777.