|Levies crucial to Tipp district|
|Written by Editor|
|Thursday, 30 April 2009 14:40|
By AMANDA CROWE
TIPP CITY - The Tipp City Exempted Village Schools are asking voters to pass two levies on May 5.
These two levies pertain to operating expenses, which include salaries, benefits, water, gas and electric service, fuel, scoring of standardized testing, auditor fees, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, paper, contracted services for special education and all other day-to-day expenses.
One issue on the ballot is a three-year renewal of the current 7.11 mill Emergency Operating Levy passed in 2006. This renewal levy, which will continue to generate $2.7 million per year, will not increase taxes.
Losing these funds would require $1.5 million in budget reductions during the 2009-10 school year, and an additional $2.7 million dollars before the 2010-11 school year, if no levy passes before the end of calendar year 2009.
The second levy is a new three-year 2.61 mill Emergency Operating Levy that will provide $990,000 in additional operating funds annually. Annual tax increase on a home with an appraised value of $100,000 will be approximately $80 per year or $6.67 per month. Go to the Miami County Auditor’s web site at www.miamicountyauditor.org to check your home’s appraised value or call the auditor’s office at 937-440-5925.
“One of biggest problems we’ve seen is the misunderstanding of the terms of the levies,” said Jim McKee, chairman of the Tipp City School Levy Campaign Committee.
“Residents think because they are termed ‘emergency’ that means poor planning. They had to be termed emergencies in order to generate new funds because our taxation is already so low. That’s hard to get across to people.”
The current 7.11 mill operating levy was slated for three years and must now be renewed.
“Though the levies are termed emergencies, we’re right on target with our budget. We have been very fiscally responsible with the dollars we’ve been given, but we’re at the end of that levy cycle,” said Superintendent Dr. John Kronour.
Check the five-year financial forecast for every Ohio school district on the Ohio Department of Education web site at www.ode.state.oh.us.
Revenue per pupil
According to the Ohio Board of Education, Tipp’s “revenue per pupil” is currently in the bottom 10 percent of all 609 school districts in Ohio and is the lowest in Miami County. Failure of these two levies would put Tipp schools second from the bottom out of all districts in the state. Revenue per pupil includes all sources of funding: local funds from Tipp-Monroe taxpayers, state and federal.
“We’re in the lowest tenth percentile within the state for revenue generated per pupil, yet our scores are right up at the top. If you look at the value we’re giving tax payers, it’s very high with very low revenue per pupil,” said McKee. “Tipp residents are accustomed to lower taxes and have become numb to the value of the schools.”
There is no defense against inflation built into school funding. By law, a levy cannot bring in more in subsequent years than it does in the year it goes into effect. So school districts must repeatedly come back to voters to renew or replace existing levies or ask for new levies.
Increases in utilities and other goods and services play a role in the district’s financial need. Comparing with costs since 2005, there have been steady increases in electricity, water and sewer services, and significant increases in natural gas and bus fuel. Road salt for snow removal increased by 116 percent this year, from $48 per ton to $104 per ton.
“The revenue we’re taking in is what we have to spend,” said Kronour. “I’ve heard people say that it’s good we’re near the bottom, that it’s something to be proud of. But if these levies don’t pass, we will be at the bottom. We know these are tough times and we’re not trying to downplay that, but if the levies pass, it’s very likely we’ll be back in three years to renew and more likely asking for more money if costs go up.”
Passage of both levies will still require budget cuts of approximately $100,000 for the 2009-2010 school year, based on current information. The district will still implement a wage freeze for the 2009-2010 year.
Passage of just the renewal will require approximately $800,000 in cuts for the 2009-2010 school year and additional cuts the following two years, based on current information.
“We’re not looking to add anything, we just want to continue the excellence we’ve had. It’s the least amount of money we could ask for and still operate. We will have to make some cuts but maintain level of quality,” Kronour said.
“Education is one of the most important things can give the community. We want to give students now the same opportunity we had in the past, if not better. Schools add value to the community - the stronger the schools the stronger the community,” he added.
Failure of both levies will require budget cuts of approximately $1.5 million for the 2009-2010 school year, based on current information, and an additional $2.7 million the following year, if no levy is passed prior to that time. This will mean the schools face a total of $4.2 million of cuts in a two-year period.
Major features of the budget reduction plan are the elimination of 15 staff positions, freezing all employee wages, reducing transportation services, implementing a Pay to Participate plan for activities and athletics, and allowing open enrollment. The largest segment being cut will be in personnel, amounting to $620,223. The district will also save $276,000 by freezing wages.
“We spent a lot of time going over different scenarios. We looked at areas where we could make cuts and still function. They will not operate as we would like, but we did the best we could without completely eliminating other areas,” said Kronour. “Roughly 84 percent of costs are staff, so people will be affected. Teachers, busing and athletics are all big ticket items, so they were the logical areas to make cuts.”
Pay to Participate
Students who participate in middle school and high school athletics, and high school band and other activities, will have to pay fees. If both levies fail, the fees will be: $250 for high school athletics (each sport); $125 for middle school athletics (each sport) and high school band; $20 for high school clubs. Caps will be $500 per individual, $750 per family.
If the renewal passes but the new levy fails, fees will be: $200 for high school athletics (each sport); $100 for middle school athletics (each sport) and high school band; $15 for each high school club. Caps will be $400 per individual, $600 per family. If both levies pass, the district will not initiate a Pay to Participate plan.
The increase in taxes on a $100,000 home will be less than $80 per year if both levies pass. Even if a family lives in a $300,000 home, the increase in taxes will be about $240 a year. By contrast, the fee for one high school athlete to play just one sport will be $250. The district determined the athletic costs and divided them by the number of athletes to come up with an amount to charge. This program still will not cover the entire cost for athletics.
If one or both levies fail, the district will reduce bus service (K-12) from the current one-mile walk zone to a one and a half-mile walk zone. In areas within the added one-half mile where there are no sidewalks, transportation will be provided. The board rejected going to a two-mile walk zone, which is allowable by law, and also rejected discontinuing transportation for high school students.
Open enrollment will permit students from outside the district attend Tipp Schools without paying tuition. This generates revenue for the school district because the state provides $5,732 for each open enrollment student. All other Miami County school districts have open enrollment. Tipp can accept at least 25 students for 2009-2010, which would generate $143,300 in revenue.
There are conditions that must be met for students to be accepted. Tipp will only accept students from adjacent districts: Troy, West Milton, Bethel, Miami East and Vandalia. Applications will be accepted from April 1 - June 1 on a first-come, first-served basis. Students must reapply each year.
“We don’t look at these cuts as threats. We have to lose things if we lose a chunk of funding. You will never have a full consensus as to what to keep or cut. It will have an effect on people,” Kronour added. “It was very hard to make those decisions, and I hope we don’t have to implement the cuts.”
In Nov. 2008 the Tipp community passed a renewal of the two-mill Permanent Improvement levy, which did not increase taxes. It is a five-year levy that will expire at the end of December 2014.
Permanent Improvement funds are used primarily to repair, replace and maintain school district property. Such expenses include paving of parking lots, replacement and maintenance of roofs, bus purchases, heating and cooling equipment, and other items or projects with a life expectancy of at least five years. These funds cannot be used for employee salaries, benefits or any day-to-day operating costs.
However, approximately 54 percent of voters in the the community turned down the renewal operating expense levy with an increase on the November ballot. This time the district has come back to voters with two separate levies - an emergency operating expense renewal levy and a new emergency operating expense levy.
“With the campaign in November we tried to go with the facts and focus on a positive message. At that time we were in a position where we could finish out the year without worrying,” said Kronour.
“We have provided voters the same information given during the November campaign. We have shared with them that expenses increased and shared the cost of the levies. We want to put as much information in the community hands as we can so they can make the best informed decision,” he added.
After receiving feedback from residents, the schools decided to directly state the cuts they could face if, once again, the levies fail.
“The biggest change this time is we’re telling them specifically what will be cut,” said McKee. “We intentionally didn’t last time because we didn’t want to be accused of holding that over their heads. Then people asked about the cuts and we felt we needed to tell them. We have nothing to hide. If we wanted shock value, we would have told them the specific cuts in the first go-round.”
“A key point from my standpoint as a parent and taxpayer is that we are saddling our children with an enormous government deficit and at the absolute minimum we owe them a good education,” he added.
For more information about these two issues visit the Tipp City Schools Levy Campaign Committee website at www.tippschoolslevy.com.