New Albany-Plain Local school board members appear to be considering a permanent-improvements levy request of 1.25 to 1.5 mills.

July 24 is the school board's last regular meeting scheduled before the Aug. 9 deadline to file a levy request with the Franklin County Board of Elections for an issue on the Nov. 7 ballot.

If board members do not vote on a levy request July 24, they could schedule a special meeting to vote – or take no action at all.

The latter does not appear likely after discussion at a July 10 work session.

At the meeting, board members indicated a necessity for permanent improvements and focused on their responsibilities to taxpayers.

On June 26, they approved resolutions of necessity for five millage options of 1, 1.25, 1.5, 1.75 and 2 mills, enabling the Franklin County Auditor's Office to certify a levy rate and amount of money that would be collected.

In reviewing the monthly and annual costs that could be expected for taxpayers, multiple board members said they favored an effective millage rate of 1.25.

"I think the taxpayers deserve a break," board Vice President Phil Derrow said.

He said he was in favor a 1.25-mill levy, the smallest millage necessary to undertake key repairs.

Debbie Kalinosky and Paul Naumoff also voiced their approval for a 1.25-mill levy, and Mike Busch said he was comfortable with a millage in the range of 1.25 to 1.5.

Board President John McClelland said he was comfortable with a 1.25-mill levy, but he was concerned about the potential of unanticipated repairs that would drive up costs.

"We've been putting Band-Aids on this school district for a while," he said.

Financial impact

A 1.25-mill levy is expected to generate $1,172,816 annually in tax revenue, according to the board of elections.

Even with that money, district leaders estimated they would need to draw $1,368,909 from the general fund each year to help pay for capital improvements.

The district spends an average of $1.3 million per year from the general fund on capital improvements, an average amount that doesn't account for all needs identified in a recent five-year capital-projects plan, according to documents prepared by district officials.

That plan estimates that $12.7 million would be required over five years for capital projects, with an average annual amount of $2.5 million.

Meanwhile, a 1.25-mill levy would result in an annual cost of $153.13 for taxpayers with homes with a market value of $350,000, according to finance director Becky Jenkins. That equates to $43.75 annually per $100,000 of property value.

To put that into perspective, the district's general-fund tax revenue generated is $47 million and the bond -- or, debt -- millage is $10 million, for a total tax collection of $57 million, Jenkins said.

The district's total effective millage is 59.74, which includes inside millage (a term referring to the property taxes for which the Ohio Constitution authorizes collection without a vote) and voted-in bond and levy millage, according to figures Jenkins provided.

According to those figures, a home with a $350,000 market value pays approximately $6,400 annually in school-district property taxes, she said. The $6,400 estimate doesn't include any of the other central Ohio governments and agencies that collect property taxes, she said.

That amount should decrease shortly because 2.5 mills to repay bond debt is expected to come off the books at the end of December, according to Jenkins. Taxpayers with a $350,000 home valuation currently pay an annual cost of $267.97 for that 2.5 mills of debt service, she said.

Timing considerations

Board members also discussed how the millage of a permanent-improvements levy requested in November could affect the millage of an operating levy later.

"It's a number now or a number later," McClelland said.

More money taken from the general revenue fund for would improvements would speed the need for an operating levy and could increase the millage of that levy, finance director Becky Jenkins said.

A 1.25-mill permanent-improvements levy approved in November would mean the district would need at least a 5-mill, three- to four-year operating levy by 2020 or 2021, Jenkins said.

"We will continue to be fiscally responsible with expenses and work toward reducing those expenses each year prior to that time in order to positively impact any potential levy request in the future or to push the request out even farther," she said.

Four of five board members would have to approve a millage option for any levy to be placed on the ballot, Jenkins said.

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