The cost of buying textbooks, operating school buses, updating computers and keeping facilities and equipment in shape adds up for Delaware City Schools.

From 2014-18, the annual total cost of those expenses has ranged from $1.7 million to $2.6 million annually, with $1.9 million the total in 2018.

Since 1989, those costs have been covered by a permanent-improvements levy, which district spokeswoman Jennifer Ruhe said pays for materials and equipment that has at least a five-year lifespan.

"It cannot be used for salaries or day-to-day operating expenses," she said.

Renewed every five years, the levy generates about $2 million annually, Ruhe said.

The issue's renewal, as a continuing levy, will be on the May 7 ballot with no increase in property taxes if it's approved, she said.

The permanent-improvements levy first was collected at 3 mills. It will be listed at that figure on the ballot, even though it's collected at a lower rate, Ruhe said.

Because the levy is designed to raise a specific amount of money, Superintendent Paul Craft said, the millage has been reduced as overall property value throughout the district has increased. The levy now is collected at 2.48 mills, which district Treasurer Melissa Swearingen said costs homeowners $76 annually for each $100,000 of appraised property value.

Because the millage is based on overall property value, Craft said "it would take a recession and property values crashing" to increase the rate back to 3 mills.

Among other expenses, he said, the levy buys four new school buses each year -- a schedule the district follows to keep its fleet up to date. Also funded by the levy, Ruhe said, are "computers, roofing, textbooks, a lot of our technology infrastructure, HVAC, a lot of our asphalt work that we do, playgrounds, sidewalks and repair."

The levy will appear on the ballot alongside the district's the $36.5 million, 37-year bond issue that would see expansion and upgrades at every district school if approved by voters.

Jason Sherman, the district's director of facilities and transportation, said the bond issue -- also being billed as a "no-new-millage" issue that would not raise taxes -- would cover some long-term maintenance issues the permanent-improvements levy cannot handle.

"Some of the smaller maintenance-style projects ... would come out of the permanent-improvement levy," he said, "because you normally do roofing in small pieces anyway. But at Carlisle (Elementary School) and at Hayes (High School), there are still a couple of roofs that are the old built-up asphalt roof with the gravel on top. Those in some cases have an asbestos deck underneath of them. Those are tear-off roof replacements that will get costly."

The more expensive a maintenance project is, and the bigger it is, Sherman said, the more likely a bond issue would be needed to pay for it.

"A lot of our roofs are in decent shape. Then again, it's one of those things that you have to stay on top of," he said.

The voters' support of past permanent-improvements levies has been vital to the district, Craft said.

"We're lucky that we've been able to maintain these facilities," he said. "We have some of the oldest average-age facilities around, and that's because this community has consistently supported our ability to maintain those buildings. As we've seen so many historic buildings be lost, we've been able to maintain these buildings in the Delaware City Schools and we're going to continue to get decades and decades of life out of them.

"It makes sense financially, it makes sense educationally and it just makes sense for continuing the great feel we have in Delaware: of neighborhood schools and great relationships with our local community," Craft said.

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