Delaware News

Don't panic: No audits planned for Big Walnut residents

Letters sent to some district residents were meant only for developer, officials say

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More than a dozen letters went out last week to Big Walnut Local School District homeowners informing them they would be audited because of discrepancies between the value and sale prices of their homes.

Those letters were sent by mistake, district leaders said this week.

Since the district's primary source of revenue is from property taxes, the district conducts an annual review of property sales and analyzes the properties' valuations and what the sale prices were. This review helps the district know that it receives proper revenue, officials said.

If the county auditor's review of a property's stated value does not reflect the sale price correctly, then the district files a sales complaint with the county's Board of Revision.

Based on the review, there were some questons about sales versus values on multiple properties and land purchased in March 2013 by developer Westport Homes, district leaders said.

However, owners of Westport Homes received summonses from the Delaware County auditor when they were meant solely for the developer, officials said.

The district wanted to make sure the developer was paying its fair share, Superintendent Steve Mazzi said.

"We didn't realize the complaint would follow any subsequent sales to the actual homeowners," he said.

Administrators acted quickly to alleviate the situation by calling the homeowners or hand-delivering correction letters directly to them.

In a press release, the district apologized for any inconvenience and said it continues to evaluate the Board of Revision sales complaint process "to make sure that this specific situation does not occur in the future."

"Be assured that throughout this process, our goal is to be good stewards of the district's largest asset, real estate taxes, by ensuring that no property owners pay more or less than their fair share of taxes," the press release said. "Our desire is simply to be responsible stewards of school resources."

The school board approved a motion at its May 8 meeting to stop the district's attorney from sending out further summonses.

Board member Mindy Meyer apologized for the stress this caused.

"I feel horrible for the people that received these. It's not our standard operating procedure to do this," Meyer said. "I feel horrible that it caused so much angst among people that are in our district and parents of kids."

Board President Allison Fagan communicated with county Auditor George Kaitsa and said she stayed updated on the situation's progress. She said she was thankful that Kaitsa contacted her and that school administrators worked efficiently to resolve the issue.

"A lot of people worked really hard today once we realized the error and to rectify the error so quickly," Fagan said.

The board requested that school administrators figure out how the letters were sent.

Library asks for levy

The school board last week gave its nod to a 1-mill levy request in November for the Sunbury Community Library.

The board is the taxing authority for the community library. Since the library is closely linked with Big Walnut schools, library officials needed approval from the board.

The resolution declared it necessary to levy the tax for the benefit of the library. The board approved the resolution at its May 8 meeting.

A five-year, 1-mill levy was approved in 2009. Library leaders said the renewal levy will not increase taxes.

Harrison Street

Principal Kim Castiglione updated the board on Harrison Street Elementary School's progress. Castiglione said most of the faculty and staff hiring is complete.

The building, closed by the district in 2010, will reopen next school year. It has received fresh coats of paint in the stairwells and new technology has been installed, Castiglione said.

There will be an open house at the school from 5 to 7 p.m. May 29.

 

Wrapping up the year

The school board last week approved this year's commencement ceremony and accepted three retiring teachers' resignations.

Big Walnut High School's commencement ceremony is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 17, at Big Walnut High School, 555 S. Old 3C Road.

Big Walnut High School Assistant Principal Brad Felkey, Big Walnut Middle School social studies teacher Gorman "Mickey" Horn, and Hylen Souders Elementary School first-grade teacher Lindsey Simmons will retire at the end of the school year.

The board will meet next at 6:30 p.m. June 12 in the media center at the high school.

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