SIDNEY – Sidney City School Levy Co-Chair Rudy Keister and School Superintendent Bob Humble asked for Sidney City Council’s support of the new, 7.3 mills emergency tax levy that will be on the March ballot during Monday evening’s meeting.
To avoid an operating deficit, the Sidney City Schools Board of Education is asking Sidney voters to approve the tax levy for the March 17, 2020, election. The 10-year levy, which would first be collected on property taxes in 2021, would generate $3.5 million a year.
“This is an operating levy. This is the first new money that we will have brought forth since 2009, so it has been a while since we have asked for new money. In the past, we have just asked for the renewals of existing funds,” Keister said to Sidney City Council members.
He pointed out the “effective millage” is comparable among area neighboring communities. The levy flier Humble distributed at the meeting notes it is the lowest among like sized peers such as Piqua, Troy and Vandalia.
Passing the levy would provide a “vital need of stabilization to protect and continue the current level” of the Sidney City School District’s “programs and services,” the levy flier underlines.
“I’m here to implore both council and staff members to support this, especially as in this time where we are going through this whole re-branding effort in Sidney and Shelby County. We have the bicentennial coming up. We have a whole revitalization of downtown, and a kind of new Sidney renaissance we are trying to portray. And if we are trying to get people to come to Sidney, Ohio, to bring their families here, bring their businesses, we have to have a strong school system, kind of as a backbone, to support that,” Keister said. We cannot continue to kick this can down the road. Everyone has their own thoughts on how school funding should be, and so forth. We are not here to discuss that mechanism. That is something that should be discussed in Columbus. At this stage, we are trying to do what is best for the citizens in Sidney, and that is to pass this millage on March 17.”
Humble emphasized “Sidney strong” means Sidney the community, the city and school — all tied together.
“We are trying to do the things that people can look and see us from the outside and go, ‘Wow, they are all working together. They are all trying to doing the right things.’ And we are all trying to make our community stronger,” Humble said.
“As Rudy said, it’s been about 10 years since we have gotten any new money. Very little money from the state — any increases. In fact, several years, we’ve had decreases,” he continued.
Council member Steve Wagner thanked Humble for the transparency with this levy campaign and for the provided list of frequently asked questions, including answering why and what the levy funds will go toward. Humble said if people go to the school levy’s website at www.sidneyschoolslevy.org, they will find additional questions and answers. He noted the document is continuously updated as new frequently asked questions arise.
“We want to be fully transparent. We’ve worked really hard in the district to try to trim expenses. We’ve cut about $1.5 million this past year. We are working on, through our restructuring and not filling positions, and just doing a better job of scheduling our people,” Humble said. “We have a couple more positions that we are going to restructure this year as well, and hope to save another couple hundred thousand (dollars) as well, without any things that will cut into student programs. That is our main thing.”
“We don’t want to cut into things that will hurt students. If anyone knows me, you know I’m all about kids. And that is what I look at all of the time. Whatever is what’s best for kids. And that is what we got to try to do. And if everybody thinks about that when they go to the voting booth: this is about kids — we should do really well,” Humble said.
Mayor Mike Barhorst said what he suspects most people don’t realize with this levy is that when their house value goes up, the amount of money they pay stays the same.
Humble said, “So what happens on this particular levy, it’s 7.3 mills, it’s what it’s calculated at; it generates $3.5 million (a year). But as new companies or new housing comes to the district, or new homes are built, that figure actually goes down because it is a fixed dollar amount that is spread out amongst everyone. So the more the development that we have in the community, that dollar amount goes down.”
City Manager Mark Cundiff said when communities are in a competitive situation for economic development, site selectors will look to see does if the community supports school levies. He said these people think that if a community isn’t going to support the schools, why would they support whatever the new business may be. He also noted the quickest way to depreciate a home’s value is to not pass a school levy.
“As you mentioned,” Cundiff said to Humble and Keister, “what is good for the schools is good for the city. What is good for the city is good for the schools. We are all in this together.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.