07-24-03: Two new levies likely
|St. Marys school board preparing to put issues on ballot
By LANCE MIHM
The Daily Standard
ST. MARYS - St. Marys school district voters may be faced with two new
levies when they head to the polls in November.
Board members at a special Wednesday night meeting agreed to put in
front of voters a 1 percent income tax levy for operating cost and a 6.97-mill property
tax levy for a future building project. The building levy would be deferred until 2006.
The income tax would raise an estimated $2.1 to $2.3 million per year
in operating money, which would help offset a projected $108,562 deficit in the 2005
budget that could climb to a $4.06 million deficit in 2007. School officials have said the
deficit is due to state cuts in funding.
The property tax would raise $1.6 million annually toward the school's
$60 million school construction project. The school district would pick up $27 million of
the total construction cost, with the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) covering
the other $33 million. The OSFC has agreed to pay for the majority of the construction
costs, as long as the school follows the state's building guidelines.
Board members last week discussed delaying the building levy so they
could focus on getting more operating money to offset the deficit. But board members on
Wednesday night said they rethought the issue and feared losing the $33 million in OSFC
funding if they didn't try to get the building levy passed. They also said they wanted to
take advantage of the low interest rates due to the economy.
"Interest rates are at a 40-year low," Business Manager Kurt
Kuffner said. "We need to take advantage of construction costs because people are
looking for work."
Superintendent Paul Blaine added that construction costs would only
increase as the economy grew stronger. Waiting on the building levy also could cause the
school to lose millions in funding as the OSFC makes changes, he said.
Blaine said passage of both levies would eliminate the need for any new
levies for at least five years.
The 6.97-mill bond levy would include 2.87 new mills plus an extension
of the 4.1-mill levy passed in 1998 for renovations to East and West elementary schools.
It would cost taxpayers an extra $100 per year, based on a $100,000 home.
Based on a $24,084 annual wage with one exemption, the income tax levy
would cost a taxpayer $209 per year.
Board members said they chose to go with an income tax for operating
cost rather than a property tax to balance the tax burden.
"Most people are saying income tax is a fairer tax," board
member Grady Shaner said. "Farmers say that schools are built on farmer's backs
because of the reliance on property taxes."
The ordinance passed by board members Wednesday does not put the levy
on the ballot, Blaine said. It sends the levy proposal to county Auditor Karyn Schumann
for certification. After being returned from Schumann, the board then must vote to put
both levies on the November ballot.
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