Delaware News

Sunbury

Library on fall ballot; schools plan May request

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The Sunbury Community Library will ask voters to approve a renewal levy Nov. 4, and the Big Walnut Local School District likely will follow in May with a levy request of its own.

Big Walnut board members gave their approval of the library levy earlier this year. The school district is the taxing authority for the library and its approval of levy requests is required.

Voters last approved a library levy in 2009. The Nov. 4 request is a five-year renewal of a 1-mill operating levy, which helps to fund library personnel, materials and programs.

The levy will continue to cost homeowners $31 annually per $100,000 in property value if it's approved.

"We are really grateful to the community," said Chauncey Montgomery, Sunbury Community Library director. "In 2009, we were in the thick of the recession. People were facing in their personal lives and business an income and revenue drop. We were really appreciative that the community supported our initiative in 2009."

Library leaders explored collaboration with other libraries, numerous grants and donations to help with expenses.

The renewal levy would maintain the library's funding without increasing taxes.

"As we approach this year, we looked at the way we've been spending money and we looked at the future and different factors that would impact us," Montgomery said. "We strive to be good stewards and prudent with the public's money."

The Big Walnut school board is working in advance, preparing for a likely May 2015 operating-levy request.

District officials are working on the language for the levy proposal; the board has not yet passed a resolution to put the renewal levy on the ballot. President Allison Fagan said the board wouldn't pass the necessary resolution until October or November.

"We want (the levy) to pass the first time through. The last time we went on the ballot it took three times, and it was a very painful time," Fagan said. "We wound up having to RIF staff. The district really had to contract. We really need for this to pass first time through."

In 2010, voters approved a five-year, 7.5-mill operating levy. It helped to cover the costs for teaching supplies, computer technology, utilities and maintenance, school bus transportation, classroom programs and employee salaries and benefits.

The levy specifics, such as millage or time frame, have not yet been decided. The board and district officials agree they want to ask voters to renew the previous levy, and there are no plans for an increase.

"It would be a renewal, so individual taxpayers' taxes will not increase," Fagan said. "More people live in the district and more people will be coming to the district, so we need the resources."

Now, the board and volunteers are looking ahead to inform voters about the need for a renewal. The volunteer group Community for Eagle Pride has formed to campaign for the issue.

The organization also asks for the community to donate one-tenth of 1 percent of their salaries to help the schools.

"We know from research that successful campaigns typically need to raise at least $1.51 per registered voter," said Liana Lee, a volunteer with Community for Eagle Pride. "In Big Walnut, we have more than 13,600 registered voters. In order for us to increase our chances of success of passing that renewal levy, we need to raise $20,500."

The current levy will expire in December 2015. Fagan said the district has spent the money wisely and carefully the last five years despite unexpected changes.

"We promised the community that this levy would last five years, and it has lasted every day of five years," she said. "Despite the fact we've had increased unfunded mandates by the state, we've had increases in health-care costs that we can't control -- despite those challenges, we continued to manage to live within our means."

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