New Albany News

Fall levy request

Board weighs millage options

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The New Albany-Plain Local school board last week asked district officials to prepare documents for continuous operating levy options and a 2-mill, five-year permanent-improvements levy for the November general election.

The board was expected June 16 to approve a resolution of necessity for 4.9-mill, 6.9-mill and 11-mill operating levies, along with the permanent-improvements levy. Board members then could decide in July which option to pursue on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Treasurer Rebecca Jenkins said the 4.9-mill option would require the district to make cuts over the next two years. Combined with a 2-mill permanent-improvements levy, a 4.9-mill operating levy would cost a homeowner $241.50 per year per $100,000 of assessed property valuation, according to the district.

The 6.9-mill option would allow the district to continue its progress and make slow, incremental movement on the strategic plan, said Superintendent April Domine. Combined with a 2-mill permanent-improvements levy, a 6.9-mill operating levy would cost a homeowner $311.50 per year per $100,000 of assessed property valuation, according to the district.

The 11-mill option would allow the district to move faster in completing its strategic plan, said school board President Mark Ryan. Combined with a 2-mill permanent-improvements levy, an 11-mill operating levy would cost a homeowner $455 per year per $100,000 of assessed property valuation.

District officials say an operating levy would prevent the district from a $5 million deficit in fiscal year 2016, which was estimated in the most recent five-year forecast.

The 6.9-mill levy would prevent a deficit in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 and the 11-mill levy would prevent a deficit in fiscal years 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Jenkins said the district would need an approved levy this November to begin collections in 2015 and avoid the projected deficit.

She said asking for a levy in 2015 would require the district to cut $5.7 million out of the budget for 2015 and more in 2016 because collections from a May 2015 levy would not begin until January 2016.

When asked what $5.7 million in cuts would mean to voters, Domine said that would equate to 70 teaching positions. She said if any cuts were to be made, the board would have to consider factors other than teaching positions to cut.

The district's most recent operating levy, approved by voters in November 2012, is a 4.24-mill continuous operating levy to generate $3.51 million annually and prevent a deficit through fiscal year 2015.

The levy was paired with a 2.59-mill bond issue for $45.1 million to pay for a new school building and site improvements. The bond and levy cost homeowners $209 per year per $100,000 of assessed property value.

The district also has a 24.4-mill permanent operating levy approved in 2008 that collects $21.7 million per year. The permanent levy, which was a first for the district, costs homeowners about $750 per year per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Ryan said the district is considering a higher millage this time because it has a much lower annual carryover balance.

In 2012, the district's carryover was $18 million, Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the district has not had revenues exceed expenditures for the past three years and the district has been using money from the carryover to balance the budget.

Estimated carryover balances are projected to be much lower -- $4.6 million to $5 million in the next five years, which is in line with the ending cash-balance policy the board approved in May. The policy is meant to provide enough funding for the district to operate for 30 days.

The district took the same approach with the permanent levy in 2012.

School board members did not have many questions June 9 related to the district's list of permanent improvements, which includes everything from repairing roofs and replacing heating and cooling systems to repaving parking lots and purchasing buses and textbooks. The improvements are expected to total $21.5 million over 10 years.

The district's most recent permanent-improvements levy expired in December 2009. Jenkins said the permanent-improvements fund is down to $120,000.

Kohler said she liked the idea of a five-year permanent-improvements levy, which would require the board to go back to voters in four years.

Board members said they preferred the operating and permanent-improvements levies would appear on the Nov. 4 general-election ballot as one issue.

Jenkins told the district's financial review and reporting committee June 16 that the board could not place a continuous operating levy and a five-year permanent-improvements levy on the ballot as one issue because the two would have different terms. She said because of that, district officials recommend both be placed on the ballot as continuous levies.

FRRC member Parag Patel asked the board to remember that residents need simple and clear information related to any levy campaign.

FRRC member Phil Derrow asked the district to refrain from using negative information about potential cuts, which could be perceived by voters as a threat.

The school board has scheduled another listening session at 6 p.m. July 14.

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