Dublin school officials promised voters in November 2004 that if a combined operating levy and bond issue passed they wouldn't be back on the ballot for at least three years.

Dublin school officials promised voters in November 2004 that if a combined operating levy and bond issue passed they wouldn't be back on the ballot for at least three years.

The district kept that promise and then some, said Dublin Treasurer Steve Osborne.

Four years later, the district will be on the ballot next Tuesday with a combined 7.9-mill permanent operating levy and $50-million bond issue.

The bond issue does not require an increase in the current 7.2-mill bond taxes, Osborne said, while the operating levy will cost the owner of a home with an assessed valuation of $200,000 an additional $484 a year in property taxes. Collection of those new taxes would begin in January 2010.

"Getting it approved now allows us to plan for the future," Osborne said.

To reach 2008 without asking for more money from voters, he said, the district cut more than $5-million from the operating budget last April, spread out over two years.

If the levy fails, additional cuts will be needed, including staff positions, said Superintendent David Axner.

Salaries and benefits make up 89 percent of the district's operating budget, he said, so any cuts would have to affect staffing, which in turn would affect class size and programs.

The 7.9-mill permanent operating levy is expected to meet the district's financial needs through the 2012-13 school year.

In a growing, affluent district such as Dublin, Osborne said he is frequently asked why the new home and commercial construction and increased property valuations don't generate enough income to keep the district from returning to the voters for more money.

The question has multiple answers, he said.

First, 2008 property taxes for schools -- for both operating (general fund) expenses and capital needs on a $200,000 new home -- equaled $2,490 annually, Osborne said. Of that amount, taxes paid for operating costs alone came to $2,050, he said.

The total cost to educate one child from that home in 2007, the last figures available from the state, was $11,444. Of that, about $10,870 comes from the general fund, Osborne said. The state pays 21 percent of that amount and the rest comes from property taxes.

If more than one child is in that home, the gap between revenues and costs drastically increases.

Second, unlike other governmental entities, schools get no revenue growth from income taxes or sales taxes.

Finally, House Bill 920, passed by the Ohio Legislature in 1976, is the biggest factor in forcing schools to return to the voters for more money, according to school officials.

In its simplest form, HB 920 prohibits districts from capturing inflationary growth "by requiring rollbacks of local millage rates in response to increases in property valuations," Osborne said. Thus, the additional annual revenue generated when voters approve an operating levy is capped at that amount until voters approve the next levy.

For example, in 2004, Dublin voters approved a 7.9-mill permanent operating levy, and it has been rolled back in subsequent years to 6.6 mills because of increases in property valuations within the district, Osborne said.

If HB 920 weren't in place and the district had been allowed to "capture" that additional 1.13 mills, the district would have received an additional $3.2-million in revenue this year.

Overall, Dublin voters have approved 60 mills for operating purposes, Osborne said. This money is now collected at 29.07 mills because of HB 920.

That legislation affects wealthier districts, such as Dublin, in other ways, he said.

When reappraisals increase the total property valuation in a school district, the state perceives the district to be wealthier, and this will likely decrease the amount of state aid the district receives. This is known as the "phantom revenue" phenomenon by many school administrators because the state-aid formula attributes revenue based on increased property wealth that the district never receives because of HB 920 millage rollbacks.

During the life of the three-year levy that will be on the Nov. 4 ballot, Osborne estimated the district will lose out on $6.2-million in state funding because of the phantom-revenue effect.

Other factors affecting the need for the operating levy, he said, include state reductions in business tax reimbursements and increased funding needs through unfunded mandates of the No Child Left Behind federal legislation.

The $50-million bond includes money for the district's 13th elementary school to ease overcrowding in the northwest part of the district, additions to two middle schools and Coffman High School, safety improvements at all schools, technology, equipment replacement and maintenance.

The two issues are combined on the ballot for one vote because school officials said without the additional operating money, jobs will be lost and programs cut; without the new elementary school and additions to the two middle schools, the overcrowding situation at those two levels would force higher classroom sizes and redistricting, Axner said.

The bond to fund capital costs can be structured without raising the current 7.2 millage rate because of the "no new millage" concept that structures debt so that people moving into the district in future years pay their fair share of the capital costs, Osborne said.