October 2, 2003
officials make pitch for support for tax levies
Yellow Springs school administrators and school board members made their case to the public last week for the two property tax levies the district has placed on the Nov. 4 ballot.
At the school board’s meeting Sept. 23, officials stressed that the two levies — an emergency levy and a permanent improvement levy — are both renewals and reductions of current levies and would result in a total of $408,990 in savings for local residents.
“We’re saying that we can maintain a district that we can be proud of and have villagers pay a little less than they pay now,” Superintendent Tony Armocida said.
Several of the 11 community members who attended the meeting expressed support for the levies, and no one criticized the ballot issues.
But some audience members cautioned the district not to be complacent during the levy campaign. “Don’t take it for granted,” said former school board member Judy Leighty. “There’s some resistance.”
The school district is seeking to renew the emergency levy at 10.1 mills. It would generate $1.06 million a year, or 17 percent of Yellow Springs school funding, for ongoing operating expenses such as salaries. If approved by voters, the levy would go into effect in January 2005 and would last three years.
Scheduled to expire at the end of 2004, the emergency levy is currently 10.3 mills and brings in $1.086 million a year. It was last approved in 1999.
The second levy renewal, the 1.2-mill permanent improvement levy, would provide the schools $69,000 per year for the schools’ technology needs and bus purchases. The five-year levy would go into effect at the beginning of next year.
The levy would generate $330,000 less than the current permanent improvement levy, which is 2.2 mills and generates $135,000 a year. Set to expire at the end of the year, the permanent improvement levy was last approved by voters in 1998.
Armocida said that passage of both levies this fall would result in reduced property taxes. Together the levies would save a property owner $63 per $100,000 of appraised property value, according to the district.
Several board members said that they are not aware of other school districts that are asking voters for reduced amounts of property taxes.
“Health care is skyrocketing, utilities are going up, we should be asking for more taxes,” said board member Rich Bullock. Not doing so, he said, “is a major accomplishment. I don’t know of any other school district where this is happening.”
Several factors have contributed to the board’s opportunity to seek the lower tax amounts, Armocida said.
The passage of the 1 percent school income tax in 2001 helped to diversify the district’s funding sources, which, he called, “an advantage.”
“It brings us to the point where we can do this,” he said. The district said that it expects to receive $1.28 million a year in school income tax revenue.
Board members said that they remained committed to attempting to reduce property taxes, a pledge they made during the income tax campaign.
The Yellow Springs schools are also benefiting from increased income from open enrollment students, whose fees have helped the school district realize a $300,000 profit a year, Armocida said.
More students are attending Yellow Springs schools under the open enrollment policy this year as a result of the school board’s decision to expand the program beyond neighboring districts.
Some community members suggested that the district make clear in the levy campaign the success of the open enrollment policy. “You should emphasize the quality of the schools and the fact that they attract outside students,” said Pat Olds. “That has not always been the case.”
In a discussion of funding sources, Treasurer Joy Kitzmiller outlined the school’s proposed sources of income. Continuing property taxes provide 35 percent of school income, and the income tax would provide about 20 percent. State revenues, which have been reduced in all districts this year, would provide about 18 percent, and the emergency levy would provide 17 percent. Open enrollment would provide 7 percent, local revenue 2 percent and the permanent improvement levy, about 1 percent. The district’s total revenue would be $6.396 million.
Kitzmiller also explained that Ohio has two basic categories for state funding, based on an area’s property values and number of students. Because Yellow Springs is relatively wealthy and has a small number of students, the district receives considerably less than what other districts receive, she said. While the average per pupil state payment is $4,900, Yellow Springs receives about $1,000 per student, she said.
Several board members expressed concern over some misconceptions regarding the proposed levies. For instance, board president Tom Haugsby said some villagers believe that because the school income tax passed two years ago, the schools no longer need income from property taxes.
Board members also said that others became confused when Greene County reappraised property values last year, producing higher property taxes for many. This coincided with the school board’s stated desire to lower property taxes, board members said.
“When you see the facts it makes a strong case,” board member Mary Campbell-Zopf said. “But it’s hard to get the whole picture out there.”