October 16, 2003



Support for school levies is vital

This November’s election may not be generating the kind of excitement that past contests have in Yellow Springs, but there is one significant issue on the ballot that deserves every voter’s attention: two property tax levies that would provide essential funding for the Yellow Springs school district. Local residents should maintain their steadfast support for the public schools and pass both levies, which will help the district continue to provide children in Yellow Springs with a quality education.

On the Nov. 4 ballot, the Yellow Springs school board is seeking to renew, with a reduction in millage, both of its property tax issues: a 1.2-mill permanent improvement levy, Issue 11 on the ballot, and a 10.1-mill emergency levy, Issue 12.

The five-year permanent improvement levy would generate $69,000 a year for technology needs and school buses. If approved, the levy would go into effect next year. Voters last approved this levy in 1998.

The emergency levy would generate $1.06 million a year, or 17 percent of the district’s revenue, for crucial operational costs, including salaries and benefits. The levy would go into effect in January 2005, replacing the current emergency levy when it expires at the end of the next year. The emergency levy was last approved in 1999.

Both levies are important for the district, but clearly more is at stake with the passage of the emergency levy because it generates funds to pay for the district’s most essential resource, its people. Superintendent Tony Armocida has bluntly said that without the levy, “we couldn’t run the district.” It is also important, however, for voters not to underestimate the importance of the permanent improvement levy, since it will pay for, among other things, new computers and software.

School officials and supporters in their levy campaign have made a point of emphasizing that the levies, as renewals and reductions, would result in a decrease in property taxes for local residents. This is good news, and voters should appreciate the fact that the district is trying to control expenses and not overtax local residents.

Indeed, one could hardly say that the district is flush with cash. The schools operate with modest, but much improved, facilities. There are no extra staff, administrators or teachers roaming the halls. The schools use their funds wisely, and do not appear to be wasting taxpayers’ money.

Decreasing taxes, however, is not the main point of this election. Maintaining a strong school district is. By placing two levies on the ballot, school officials are planning ahead for the district’s funding needs. With just two votes, local residents can help solidify the district’s funding for the next three to four years, helping school officials to account for both immediate and future needs, such as staffing levels, educational programs and contract negotiations with both of the district’s unions, which are scheduled for next spring.

This smart, rational move deserves voters’ support. Approving Issues 11 and 12 will help the community’s most important asset, the schools, stay healthy and in good financial shape. Everyone in the community benefits from that.

—Robert Mihalek