Combined 9-mill levy headed to May ballot
The Marysville Exempted Village School District Board of Education voted unanimously to combine a current five-year, 5-mill levy and a 4-mill levy into a 9-mill continuous levy for the May ballot.
Both the 5-mill and the 4-mill levies began in 2009 and run through 2013. The board considered adding another current five-year, 6.56-mill levy that would raise the levy request to more than 15 mills but decided going higher than 9 mills may jeopardize the chances of passing any of the renewals.
"Fifteen-mills is sticker shock to a lot of people," said MEVSD board president Jeff Mabee.
The current 6.56-mill levy began in 2010 and runs through 2014. The board decided it will hold off on requesting renewal of that levy until, possibly, the November election.
The board has been adamant for months that it must pass the three renewal levies in some form in order to stay out of hot water with the state.
MEVSD treasurer Cindy Ritter said the failure of the renewals will mean much deeper cuts than the most recent $2 million.
"If we don't have a balance in the positive, I'm not sure what the state will do. You have to have a balanced budget by the end of the fiscal year so probably, by state law, we would have to make more cuts," said Ritter.
"So if the levy fails in May, we would have to make almost $1 million in cuts between May and the start of the school year," said Mabee.
The decision to combine all three renewals or just combine the 5-mill and the 4-mill for the May election was made after board members discussed the two options at length.
On the matter of combining all three, board member Amy Powers pointed to the most recent failed levy and the controversy it caused about the district's need to cut dozens of positions.
"I'm a little bit-gun shy with what we just went through,"said Powers.
Member Tracy Greer called combining all three "not prudent or wise."
"Combining all three is way too risky," said board vice president Sue Devine.
Ritter pointed out that many of the complaints about levies is that the district goes to the ballot far too often with levy requests.
"I understand being skeptical about a 15.56-mill levy. My opinion is, we need to skip the November ballot and give them (voters) a break," said Ritter.
Superintendent Diane Mankins said putting off the renewal request for the third levy will give the district time to see what Ohio Governor John Kasich's new budget will look like in regards to the education budget. The state budget must be approved in June but still gives the board time to decide on whether to go on the November ballot or delay it until 2014.
"We can get a little temperature check on what the budget says. I just think that's really important to our financial plan," said Mankins.
Union County Auditor Andrea Weaver commended the board on its decision to split the renewals into a 9-mill issue in May and consider a renewal of the 6.56-mill levy at a later date.
"I think it's very wise of the board to not put three levies before the voters," said Weaver.
All board members agreed that the levy campaign must be very clear in that it requires no new taxes. The board also said it must get the message across: nearly $1 million will have to be cut on top of the $2 million in previously announced cuts.
"It's got to pass in May or we're going to be in reductions again," said Mabee.
Mankins and Ritter will bring a plan that includes $963,395 in proposed cuts should the renewals fail this spring to the February board meeting.
Meantime, Chris Schmenk, former Marysville mayor and current director for the Ohio Department of Development, and Kenney Chaffin, former Marysville High School varsity basketball coach and current assistant principal at Worthington McCord Middle School, are running the May levy campaign and will provide monthly updates to the board on the levy committee's progress.