New Albany News

Nov. 4 ballot

District's two levy requests add up to 8.9 mills

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The New Albany-Plain Local school board on July 28 unanimously approved a resolution of necessity to put a 6.9-mill operating levy and a 2-mill permanent-improvements levy on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Both levies would be permanent.

The operating levy would generate $5.74 million each year and cost district homeowners about $241.50 per $100,000 of assessed property value, according to Dave O'Neil of the Franklin County Auditor's Office.

The permanent-improvements levy would generate $1.66 million per year and cost district homeowners about $70 per $100,000 of assessed property value, according to O'Neil.

District officials have said the operating levy would prevent a $5 million deficit in fiscal year 2016 and allow the district to continue progress on its strategic plan.

The permanent-improvements levy would help the district with building maintenance, which includes repairing roofs, replacing heating and cooling systems, repaving parking lots and purchasing buses and textbooks. The needed improvements are expected to cost $21.5 million over 10 years.

The most recent permanent-improvements levy expired in December 2009 and the permanent-improvements fund is down to $120,000, according to district officials.

One resident questioned the levy at the July 28 board meeting.

Rick Wieland, a resident of Plain Township since 1992, asked the board to consider seeking an income tax, which, he said, could provide twice as much revenue as the property-tax levy.

Wieland said figures he received from the school district show a 0.5 percent income tax could generate $10 million annually. He said the income tax would cost him less than the combined 8.9 mills for the operating and permanent-improvements levies.

The documents Wieland referenced came from the Ohio Department of Taxation, said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway. The estimate from the Ohio Department of Taxation showed a 0.5 percent income tax would generate $10,531,737 and would be equal to a 12.66-mill levy.

During the board's discussion of the levy, which was after Wieland left the meeting, school board President Mark Ryan said the district considered an income tax in previous levy discussions and it was not chosen as an option.

Ryan said finance committees reviewed all funding options in 2006 and in 2008 and learned that the income tax would cost less for some people but it would be much more volatile than a property tax because it could be affected by a downturn in the economy.

School board member Laura Kohler said she also was part of the finance committee during those years of discussion.

"I was surprised at the overwhelming vote for the property tax versus the income tax," Kohler said.

The district's 24.4-mill permanent operating levy was approved in 2008 and 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.

The most recent operating levy, approved by voters in November 2012, is a permanent 4.24-mill levy to generate $3.51 million annually.

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.

Kohler said a property-tax request provides a check-and-balance system and cited the 2012 campaign. She said the district agreed at that time to seek alternate funding sources, partner with other entities on programming and increase the number of Advanced Placement courses offered.

"I feel very confident that we have delivered on our promises," she said.

Board member Natalie Matt said the community seems pleased with the district. She cited the results of a recent community survey that, she said, shows there's a "strong and consistent increase in the community's perception of the excellence of the schools."

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