On the ballot: District asks voters to support operational levy

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Kyle Dane

Two opposing levy campaign signs posted alongside each other on State Route 22 and 3 in Landen show voter’s interests in the upcoming ballot measure.

Kyle Dane, Managing Editor

A 6.4 mill operational levy will be on the November ballot for community members to vote on a property tax increase that will support current academic standards, class sizes and extracurriculars like sports.

“This is an operating levy meaning that it’s going to fund staff salaries, staff benefits, utilities, student services, so this isn’t like the last couple of levies that attempted to be passed,” Mike Morrow, Treasurer said.

In Ohio, levies are based on something called millage, millage is the amount paid in taxes and represents one dollar for every 1,000 dollars of taxable property value. The levy is expected to cost taxpayers 224 dollars annually for every 100,000 dollars of true home value. It will generate approximately 7,500,000 annually for Kings.

In 1976 Ohio legislation passed a bill called House Bill 920, the gist of this bill is that the levy placed on residential property within a district cannot increase the amount paid over time. When a house is reappraised or inflation causes a house value to increase then the bill would take into effect and become a lower millage so that the school district still collects the same amount of money each year and keeps residents from paying higher taxes not voted on.

“Our 2016 levy was passed at 6.2 mills. It’s collecting at 4.8 mills because the rate has had to go down to collect the same amount while property values increase,” Morrow said during a school board meeting.

The influx of students to the district makes it harder to provide the same quality of education as with fewer students because the district still makes the same amount of money from residential property tax. It is pertinent to introduce new levies every couple of years that are proportional to the students body to sufficiently account for the costs of Kings’ academic standards in K-12 education.

“Kings has not passed an operating levy since 2016 and that levy was intended to last three years and its lasted twice as long; and in that time Kings has added 600 more students. At that scale that’s almost an entire building of kids that we have day to day that we didn’t have six years ago, ””

— Stacy Belfrom, School Board President

In 2020 the district put a bond issue on the ballot, that money could have gone towards building a new junior high building. The growing enrollment in the district has lead Kings to issue bond levies, which are different from operational levies because it goes on to fund building and major renovations. The bond issue was voted down.

“The last two, were bond levies. What the district is trying to do as you pass a levee that pays off debt essentially, so they could renovate and build facilities,” Morrow said.

Operational levies are a tax on residential property within the district and account for a large amount of school funding. Another revenue generator for the district is commercial property; although Kings doesnt have much commercial property, together these two incomes account for 69% of school funding.

“All of our commercial properties here in the district pay state property tax, which is probably the next biggest revenue generator so you are probably aware, Kings in particular we don’t have a lot of commercial property here compared to some of our neighbors,” said Belfrom.

We primarily collect commercial property tax from the corridor in South Lebanon from stores such as Target and Lowes. The new Mercy Health hospital going in across from Kings highschool campus does not pay taxes but can generate taxes for Kings in other ways.

“its a hospital its not for profit it doesn’t pay taxes,” Belfrom said. “We can use it to hopefully build some bridges there with regards to some programs and curriculums for the school and hospitals are important obviously because they can potentially generate some other development in which case those would pay taxes like if we see more doctors offices opening up and some other specialty clinics for other services outside of the hospital campus over there by the highschool our main campus those places would pay taxes.”

Kings also receives money from the state which accounts for roughly one-sixth of annual revenue. 

“Because Kings is generally considered by the state standard of what they consider to be an affluent district we don’t get the kind of money from the state level than lets say what they consider an urban district or a district that has more young people and families in need of financial assistance so the overwhelming preponderance of responsibility yes relies on property owners within the district,” Belfrom said.

Because Kings is affluent we don’t receive as much money from the state as other schools.

“The state has a formula that divvies up the money that they allocate to the districts across the state based on the need that their formula calculates. So Kings gets a pretty low amount per student, the lowest in the county,” Morrow said. “one of the lowest in the state, we ranked 530 out of 607 in 2021.”

A new initiative in Ohio called the Fair School Funding Plan was approved as part of the budget in June of 2021, the plan calls for a more equity based funding model where schools that need more money per-pupil will receive more funding rather than giving set amounts to school based on how much can be given. This plan could provide more money to schools who need it.

Should the levy not pass Kings will have to reevaluate where the district spends its money and will result in cutbacks in every area including a projected 1.65 million dollar cutback in bus services to revert to the state minimum bussing model and 3.625 million dollar total cutback on teaching staff primarily affecting a reduction in KHS course offerings.

“What we would have to do is seriously look at where we can make up that gap in reductions,” Belfrom said. “Academic offerings, our mental health programs, transportation would have to be reevaluated, anything that goes along with that all of the academic, all of the extracurricular, athletics, artistic stuff.” 

The main goal of Kings is to provide adequate education for students in the district and to continue doing that without the state intervening they need to raise more money. Reductions are already underway as the district makes preparations in case the levy does not pass.

 “We’re always evaluating where we’re spending resources and trying to be as efficient as possible. We’re actually able to make reductions that total $1.6 million in this year alone without affecting the services for kids,” Morrow said.

Kings prides itself in being able to offer a large range of courses and extracurriculars, good class sizes and amenities to families in the district such as Kindergarten daycare. In order to sustain this quality of education, Kings’ feels that a levy is necessary.

“Levies are essential to us generating the tax revenue in order to run the district in principle,” Belfrom said.

Click here for more information regarding the levy.