Licking Heights will ask voters for 8.9-mill levy on Nov. 6
More is usually better, but not always, Licking Heights Superintendent Philip Wagner said during a special school board meeting Aug. 2 when board members voted 5-0 to place an 8.9-mill levy request on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Administrators and board members debated the district's financial needs against what they believed Licking Heights voters would be willing to approve.
They decided on the 8.9-mill levy that would raise $4.3 million per year and would cost local property owners about $272 per year per $100,000 of assessed property value.
During the board's June 26 meeting,Treasurer Jennifer Vanover presented three levy options that would raise $4.3 million, $4.7 million or $5.3 million. The millage rates were 8.9 mills, 9.7 mills and 10.93 mills, respectively.
On Aug. 2, the 10.93-mill option was not even discussed because district officials deemed it too high.
Wagner said he and Vanover agreed that the 8.9-mill levy had the best chance of approval by voters and they were confident it would keep the district in the black for at least four years and possibly five, if necessary.
Vanover said that with the 8.9-mill levy, the district would have a budget balance of $337,000 at the end of 2017.
With the 9.7-mill levy, the balance would be $2.1 million and the district could operate for another year without returning to the ballot, she said.
But a 9.7-mill levy would cost local property owners about $297 per year per $100,000 of assessed property value, $25 more per year than the 8.9-mill option. Board members worried that would be just enough to turn off some voters, and they said they wanted to be conscious of the current tough economic conditions and not ask for too much.
The administration and board members did agree, however, that failure of a levy in November would be devastating to the district.
"If a levy doesn't pass, it's going to be ugly and it's going to be ugly really fast," board President Richard Wand said.
"Failure of the levy is devastating to the school (district)," said Wagner, who said class sizes in the elementary grades could increase to 30 students per teacher.
Wand estimated a 20-percent budget cut if the levy fails.
"It would be catastrophic," he said.
Board member Brian Bagley suggested the district present the public with a list of benefits from the levy.
"I just want to show people what will happen," he said.
Board member Nicole Roth said it's just as important to show the opposite.
"We need to have a tangible consequence if you say no," she said.
If the levy is approved, Wagner said he hopes the district can add five teachers to reduce class sizes and maintain two foreign languages in regular classes, namely Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.
Previously, Wagner said, an 11.9-mill levy was passed in May 2011 with the understanding that it would bring the district up to an "emergency level" and board members knew the revenue wouldn't sustain the district for long. He said it was passed with the board's promise that the district wouldn't return to the voters until November 2012.