The Big Walnut Local School District will ask voters to approve a five-year, 6.9-mill operating levy in May.

The Big Walnut Local School District will ask voters to approve a five-year, 6.9-mill operating levy in May.

In 2010, voters passed a five-year, 7.5-mill emergency operating levy designed to raise $4.9 million annually. That levy expires at the end of 2015.

An emergency levy can be used only to raise a fixed amount of money. This time around, the district will ask for a replacement levy that would be able to capture money from new construction, district Treasurer Terri Eyerman-Day said.

"We are continuing to grow as a community and as a district," she said. "With the new construction added to this replacement levy, that should continue to support this growth."

Under the current emergency levy, homeowners pay about $230 annually per $100,000 in home value. The district estimates the new levy would cost homeowners about $212 annually per $100,000 in home value.

Eyerman-Day said district leaders promised voters they would not ask for additional funds until the 2010 operating levy expired.

"Our current taxpayers will not be paying any more than they've been paying (if the May levy passes)," she said. "In fact, they may be paying a little less."

In 2008, the district eliminated some teaching and support staff positions, increased pay-to-play athletic fees, shortened the school day and eliminated some electives such as art, music and physical education to cut costs.

With the passage of the 2010 levy, some courses returned and additional staff was hired.

"The district has attempted to reinstate many of the drastic cuts that had to be made," Eyerman-Day said. "We are continuing to add programming that will make our district competitive with other districts in the area."

Without the levy, more cuts would have to be made, district leaders said.

Eyerman-Day said the biggest expense for the district is payroll and benefits for the staff and teachers.

"Our teachers and staff would be hit the hardest," she said. "We don't want to have to do that again."

Eyerman-Day said she has not heard of any organized opposition to the levy and expects it to be supported by voters.

"Traditionally, our community has supported our district," she said. "Our superintendent, Steve Mazzi, always says, 'so goes the school, so goes the community.' If you have a good school district, you're going to have a good community.

"I believe our community values education and supports us, but that doesn't mean we're not going to go out and work hard to make sure this levy gets passed."