Tri-Village News

Incremental levy one of board's four fall options

Levy's millage would increase over time

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Grandview Heights school board members are thinking outside the (ballot) box as they consider a November levy.

The board is expected to make a decision about a levy by its July 17 regular meeting.

Board members met last Thursday, June 26, to continue their levy discussions and asked for more information on traditional 4.9-mill, 5.9-mill and 6.4-mill measures as well as a fourth option: an incremental tax levy.

An incremental levy is a property-tax levy with increases that are phased in over the life of the measure. The incremental tax could be approved on a permanent basis or for a limited number of years, up to 10.

The incremental levy option was suggested by board member Jesse Truett, who said the main selling point could be that the initial millage level would be lower and the option would "spread out" the burden on taxpayers.

For example, the district might seek an incremental levy that would have an original tax of 2.9 mills in 2015 and would increase another 2.9 mills in 2017 and another 2.9 mills in 2019, he said.

Another scenario could involve a 3.9-mill original tax with increases of 3.9 mills every three years, Truett said.

While the incremental tax is an option that should be considered, Truett said it may not be the answer for Grandview.

"I would not want to do an incremental levy unless the original amount is significantly less" than a traditional levy, he said.

An incremental tax measure's initial smaller tax rate may be appealing to voters, board member Stephanie Evans said, especially older residents who no longer have children in the schools.

Residents who have children just starting school may also be more understanding about increasing the levy over time, she said.

If the board opts for an incremental levy, it wouldn't be the first time. A similar levy that would have increased from 9.8 mills to 17.8 mills was overwhelmingly shot down by voters in May 2002.

The district followed that attempt with a traditional 10.7-mill levy in November. Voters approved that levy.

Truett will work with incoming district Treasurer Beth Collier, whose contract begins Aug. 1, to craft a incremental levy option with specific millage levels for the board to consider.

Collier and interim Treasurer Cindy Ritter presented the board with a set of traditional levy scenarios that indicated a 4.9-mill levy would allow the district to maintain a projected positive cash balance through the end of fiscal year 2017. A 5.9-mill levy would avoid a deficit until fiscal year 2018.

A 3.9-mill levy also would allow the district to maintain a positive cash balance in 2017, but it would be a projected surplus of only about $42,000.

If approved by voters in November, a levy would begin collection in 2015.

Without a levy in November, the district is projected to end fiscal year 2016 with a deficit of about $185,000.

The district's last levy was approved in 2010. That measure was for 5.9 mills, with 3.9 mills set aside for operating revenue and 2 mills earmarked for permanent improvements and technology upgrades.

Collier said a new 5.9-mill levy would cost homeowners an additional $206 annually for every $100,000 in property value.

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