SIDNEY — Sidney voters said a resounding no to a 3-mill 5-year permanent improvement levy for the Sidney City Schools District.
The unofficial vote was 3,728 votes against the levy, while 2,620 people voted for the levy. Out of the 19 precincts in the school district, only three precincts approved the ballot — Sidney 1st Ward C, Sidney 2nd Ward B and Franklin Township.
“No one ever said it would be easy,” said Superintendent John Scheu at the final tally was revealed. “It’s very disappointing. With our aging buildings, we have been very good stewards of the taxpayer money. We’ve been reining in expenses.”
Five years ago, said Scheu, the district was in a dire financial situation.
“We made cuts,” said Scheu. “We pinched our pennies every change we got. But we still need the funds to pay for our aging buildings.”
The district has been operating with a PI levy since 2009. At that time 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.
“When you combined the 2008 PI levy that went off the ballot and combine that with the reduction of the bond issue (for Sidney Middle School construction), it would have only been a $35 annual increase for the property owner.”
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 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.” A PI levy cannot be used for salary benefits, purchased services or supplies.
“The school district is using money from the general fund to pay for the permanent improvements,” said Scheu. “That is going to drain our carryover balance. It seems as if we’re dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t because we have a good carryover balance.”
Scheu said the board of education will “go back to the drawing board” to determine the next step they will take concerning the PI levy.
“The issues (repairing aging buildings) don’t disappear because the levy failed,” said Scheu.
The next opportunity to place the levy on the ballot will be in August, said Scheu.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.