The Marysville Exempted Village School District Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution Oct. 27 for a 1-mill increase to its bond millage.

The Marysville Exempted Village School District Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution Oct. 27 for a 1-mill increase to its bond millage.

The board’s move will cost property owners an additional $30.62 a year for every $100,000 of home value, starting in January.

According to information from the Union County Auditor’s Office, home valuations in the Marysville school district range from $138,000 to $242,000, making the average home valuation $184,000.

The district has five bonds on the books that total 10.98 mills of voter-approved debt. The most recent bond was approved in 2005. Because of property value increases that have occurred over the years, those bonds are currently collecting at 5.2 mills, according to district treasurer Cindy Ritter.

The district must pay $8 million in debt payments annually, she said. The 5.2 mills bring in $3.5 million annually and since 2005, the district has been using $1.5 million in “hold-harmless payments” from the state and $3 million in revenue from a permanent improvement levy to pay for the debt.

Decreases in state funding, property values and other losses of revenue have had a negative impact on district funds, Ritter told ThisWeek after the board meeting.

“The bond debt is voted on as an estimate,” she explained. “If the (property) values go down, then the tax dollars are raised to pay the debt and those rates are set by the county auditor.”

Ritter told the board that returning 3.43 mills to the bonds would free up the district’s permanent improvement funds to be used for capital improvements such as maintaining buildings and buses. Each mill annually brings in $688,000 in revenue for the district, she said.

In its tax review to the district, the Union County Budget Commission —which includes the county auditor, treasurer and prosecutor —recommended a 1-mill increase that would add a bit of millage to each of the district’s five bonds, but asked if the district needed more, Ritter said.

Ritter and Superintendent Larry Zimmerman initially proposed that the board increase the millage by 3.43 mills, as suggested by Union County Auditor Andrea Weaver 10 days earlier.

Weaver calculated that this increase would raise $2.3 million and would have cost an additional $120.03 a year per $100,000 of home valuation.

The idea of raising taxes did not sit well with the board but members agreed something needed to be done to address district debt, although each had a different idea about how to approach the issue.

“This would be raising taxes without a real conversation,” board member Doug Lassiter said. “I have a hard time raising taxes by 3.43 mills. It’s not a drastic situation where we have to do it this year.”

Zimmerman said the district is at a crossroads and has to address its debt.

“If you don’t grab hold of it now, you’re messing with your bond rating,” he said.

Board President Jeff Mabee and Ritter said doing nothing means the district will continue to use permanent improvement money to pay the debt bonds and that would result in the a permanent improvement fund deficit of about $500,000 in fiscal year 2015. Payments the district receive from tax increment financing agreements also contribute to the permanent improvement fund.

Board member Tracy Greer said she was disturbed by the idea of raising the millage without a taxpayer vote.

“The community isn’t aware of what’s going on,” Greer said. “Go to the people.”

“You’re their elected representative,” Mabee said. “You’re their representation. At the end of the day, it’s our responsibility to make sure our operation runs correctly. I don’t want to raise taxes. I sure as hell don’t want to pay any more taxes. Our curriculum’s changing. God knows we’re going to spend a ton of money on that.”

Board member Roy Fraker said just because members could raise the millage amount did not mean they should do so without communicating with the public.

“The 1 mill the auditor will raise is not going to keep us going, but it will supplement with what we lost this year,” Ritter said. “We did not do any of the asphalting this year because we had to make that payment for the bond. Are we going to keep doing that? We’re going to have to, if we keep taking money out of PI and making payment to the bond.”

Zimmerman said he wasn’t happy with the idea.

“I hate it,” he said. “I absolutely hate it because we worked so hard to keep these rates down.”

He advised the board to protect the district’s bond rating.

“You’re going to go before Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s next fall, if the conditions are correct, to refinance your bonds; what’s your story? They may drop your rate because you haven’t taken care of yourself,” he said.

The board rejected increasing the millage by 3.43 mills and compromised on a 1-mill increase

“It’s a big complicated circle,” Ritter told ThisWeek. “(The board) said, ‘we’re going to go with the 1 mill to take baby steps.’ We won’t have enough to do the projects that the 5-mill permanent improvement levy that the voters approved is supposed to do.”

Mabee told the board if they all agreed to the 1-mill increase, they also must all agree to meet with the public to communicate the explanation. All board members agreed.