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05-03-06 Celina school levy wins big

By Tim Cox

  Celina City Schools district is back on solid financial footing after voters gave broad support to a new tax levy that replaces two existing tax issues.

  Cheers rang out among more than two dozen school district administrators, board members, staff members and levy campaign volunteers Tuesday night at the Mercer County Courthouse when the announcement was made by -- oddly enough -- Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey.

  The release of local election results was delayed by a federal court ruling that affected the northern half of Ohio. With the additional wait, anxiety was growing, so Grey released the news before elections officials provided computer printouts of election returns.

  The levy was passed with 65 percent of voters favoring the issue.

  The five-year, 12.3-mill property tax levy would replace two existing levies that collect a combined 14.6 mills. The tax issue will raise about $4.5 million annually for the school district and will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $376 annually in taxes.  Passage of the levy will keep the district's finances in the black for four of the next five years, Superintendent Matt Miller said.

  "We appreciate the community's support and thank all the business and community leaders and levy campaign volunteers for getting the information out," Miller said.

  The broad support for the school issue "lets us know we are doing the right thing," Miller said.

  District officials said the levy effort likely was aided by the unusual fact that the new levy will collect less revenue than the two levies it replaces. Lower taxes are an uncommon phenomenon for most school levies.

  "I think that provided a great opportunity for us," levy campaign chairperson Connie Paulus said. "That shows fiscal responsibility and that they are good stewards with our money. These guys are responsible with taxpayers' money, very responsible."

  Had school district officials not reduced the overall millage, the levy would have generated an additional $400,000 annually because of recently reappraised property values in the county. School district officials worried about the public perception of such "double dipping" decided to roll the millage back on the replacement levy.

  District officials also plan an additional $600,000 in budget cuts through staff reductions.


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