SIDNEY — Registered voters, who are residents of Sidney City Schools District, will go to the polls Tuesday, Aug. 4, to vote on an emergency 7.3 mill, 10-year property tax levy. If approved, the levy would generate $3.5 million annually for district operations.
Superintendent Bob Humble said without the new tax money, the district would operate in a deficit. The five-year forecast has a projected deficit before the end of the current forecast.
“Between the cuts we’ve made, that (levy) will help get us through the next five to six years,” he said. “Through (staff) attrition, we hope we won’t have to go back to the voters. Hopefully the state funding will stabilize again.”
Funds from the proposed emergency levy would be used for general operating expenses of the district including supplies, materials, repairs, staffing needs and capital improvements.
According to the questions and answers about the levy from the district’s website, the district experienced deficit spending in the current fiscal year. The district is projected to be in the “red” by 2024. The new levy is projected to keep the district in the black through 2024.
Tiffany Rank, communications director, said the district cut $1.26 million from the budget for the 2019-20 school year.
“We were able to reduce staff because of the new school configuration,” said Rank.
“For next school year, we’ve cut $2 million from the budget. We were shooting for $3 million,” said Humble.
The district also is saving money by transitioning to a high deductible health plan for its employees. The plan is being phased in and will be completed by the 2022 school year.
“The savings there will be big,” said Rank. It’s estimated that will save the district $300,000 a year.
Humble said there is an active campaign in the community for the levy.
“We’re asking people in the Facebook group (Sidney Schools Levy) — if they are voting yes — to get five more yes votes among family and friends,” said Humble.
The district also is answering questions from citizens on the same Facebook page. It also is using Instagram to get the word out. Signs also have been placed in “yes” voters’ yards.
A total of 32.12 mills of property tax is collected annually from property owners. Of that millage, 20 mills is established by the state and local districts have no input on that particular millage, said Humble.
“We have the lowest taxed district in the region,” said Humble. “Even with the passage of the levy, we would only jump one space, ahead of Greenville.”
While voters approved a tax renewal in 2018, the district has had no new tax money since 2009. Because the Aug. 4 levy is an emergency levy, it would not generate new funds as property values increase or additional homes are constructed in the district. As property values increase, the millage would decrease so the district would still receive $3.5 million per year.
If approved in 2020, the effective date of the levy would be Jan. 1, 2020, with collections starting in 2021.
A person with a home with a property value of $109,500 has an assessed value of $38,325, which is the amount used to establish what would be paid if the levy is approved. Every mill is $1 per $1,000 assessed value. So the property owner would pay $279.78 per year in additional taxes. Breaking the tax down further, it would be $139.89 per half, $23.32 per month or 78 cents per day.
The COVID-19 pandemic, said Rank, also has placed a financial burden on the district as the state cut finding for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
“We can’t rely on the state for our funding,” said Rank. “We have to control what we do locally to make things better for our community.
“One of Bob’s goals is to create efficiency in education. We can provide a quality education in a more efficient way,” she said.
Humble said the new learning management system will assist in remote learning as well as in-person classroom learning.
“We will be offering remote learning in the fall that is a good, quality plan,” said Humble. “They’re tweaking it by district.”
Humble said if the levy doesn’t pass Aug. 4, it would be back on the ballot in November.
“Our needs are never going away,” said Humble. “If it doesn’t pass, then we’re down $3.5 million in the next calendar year. If it doessn’t pass, it’s conceivable that the millage could go up (on future levies).”
He said the board asked for the least millage it could to help keep the district out of the red.
Humble said additional cuts will be placed on hold until the results of the August — or November — election are known.
“If it doesn’t pass (August or November), then we definitely know we’re not going to have the funds,” said Humble. “We haven’t cut kids programs, but if it fails again, it will cut into the programs. We’ve cut so much support staff that there’s no more to cut.”
Humble and Rank said they have been asked why the district doesn’t have an income tax on the books.
“The district, on multiple occasions, has attempted to diversify revenue streams and spread the tax burden by presenting voters the opportunity to pass an income tax levy,” said Rank. “In 2007, the board tried for a 1.5% income tax levy, which was voted down 66.42%. The board attempted again in August and November of 2013 for a 1% income tax; August 2013 attempt was voted down 51.69% and November 2013 attempt was voted down 53.61%.
“Sidney is lucky to have a large manufacturing base, which helps offset taxes we as individuals pay, so an income tax might not be the most beneficial. In most cases, an income tax does ‘lighten the load’ on the homeowner but in the specific case of Sidney, it may not be any more beneficial to the individual,” said Rank.
This is the second time the district has placed the 7.3-mill levy on the ballot. The first time was in March 2020, when the election was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The final tally for the Sidney City Schools tax levy was 2,687 against the levy and 2,121 for the levy.
Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.
Registered voters in the Sidney City Schools District may call the Board of Elections to request an absentee ballot application at 937-498-7207. Applications for absentee ballots to be mailed must be received by noon on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020.
In person voting hours at the board of elections are:
• 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. – Monday to Friday, July 27-July 31
• 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Saturday, Aug. 1
• 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. – Sunday, Aug. 2
• 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Monday, Aug. 3
The only issue on the ballot is a 7.3 mill emergency tax levy for Sidney City Schools.
Reach the writer at 937-328-4822.