The key for Marysville residents in understanding the school district's May levy request, according to Union County Auditor Andrea Weaver, lies in a 37-year-old law that produced unintended consequences when a faltering economy resulted in decreased property values.
House Bill 920 was approved by the state legislature in 1976. When it was signed into law, it established a "reduction factor" for the collection of school levies.
Weaver said H.B. 920 was crafted in response to what Ohio citizens at that time perceived as an unfair increase in property tax revenue to school districts when the value of their homes increased in market value.
For instance, she said, if a district passed a 5-mill levy one year and a property valuation update the next year showed a market value increase of 20 percent, the school district would receive more than the original calculations showed because it would actually receive 5 mills on the higher property values.
"So then the thought was, 'we can't let that happen. We need to make sure the school districts are only receiving what the voters intended,' which would be the original 5 mills," Weaver said.
The reduction factor put into place as a result of H.B. 920 was an effort to not allow "unvoted" gains in revenue as a result of increases in the market value of property, she said.
"What they didn't count on was what would happen when property values fall, which we've been experiencing since 2007. There has been some lowering of tax value due to market factors," Weaver said.
"So whoever designed this or had the idea of it, I don't think they had any idea or thought about what would happen if values began to decrease."
In Marysville's case, she said, even though its May ballot request is to combine two existing renewal levies of 4 mills and 5 mills into one continuing levy of 9 mills, the district still will not collect the full amount of millage.
"The levies had identical purposes and had identical expiration dates, so it's a pretty simple thing for them to try to combine a 4- and 5-mill levy into a 9," she said.
However, she said, the two levies are currently collecting at an effective rate of 8.8 mills.
"That will continue moving forward," Weaver said. "That will be the rate this next year as well. So there are no new taxes. The millage is 9, but the effective rate is less than that, so next year it would collect at that same rate."
Union County completes a revaluation every six years. If property values go up a little, then the rate at which a levy is collected goes down even further, she said.
"So then the school would only collect what they collected the year before. That's the purpose of a reduction factor, but this levy will mean no new taxes for the citizens of Marysville school district," Weaver said.
The oldest levy on the books for Marysville schools dates back to 1976, according to Weaver. It is an 18.7-mill operating levy that is currently being collected at 7.06 mills.
She said the total voted millage for the Marysville school district is 59.06 mills, which includes all levies since 1976, but the collection rate is 39.06 mills.
"You can see the decreasing of rates, so they only collect approximately what they collected the year before -- which really makes the schools, in this case, pretty much constantly in the levy business, unfortunately," Weaver said.
"They (school districts) have to constantly be thinking about how they are going to fund their operation because they don't get any increase from the growth of the district but they have to supply and meet the needs of the growth of the district."
According to the county auditor's office, the continuing levy the Marysville district is seeking in May would cost $270.27 annually per $100,000 of home valuation; there would be zero new taxes added.
Meanwhile, the school district officially kicked off its levy campaign Thursday, March 7, with a rally at Marysville High School.
Superintendent Diane Mankins has presented the school board with a contingency plan to cut $3 million from the budget if the levy fails. Those reductions include the loss of 46.5 staff jobs and 75 supplemental contracts; dropping middle school sports, freshman sports, and one assistant coach for every high school sport; and doubling pay-to-participate fees from $200 to $400 per sport.