School districts ask for levy renewals

By David J. Coehrs - [email protected]

Two local school districts are asking voters to approve renewal operating levies on the ballot March 15.

Wauseon Exempted Village Schools will ask voters to renew a five-year, 4.2-mill income tax levy. It generates $835,000 annually, approximately 16 percent of local real estate revenue.

Originally passed in 1991 as an 8.2-mill levy, the revenue is not new tax money, and has not increased, Superintendent Larry Brown said. The school district prevented the need for an increase by cutting instructional teaching and aid positions in 2012 and 2013, which raised the district’s revenue.

“Cuts were made in that time, and now we’re not in deficit spending anymore,” Brown said.

The levy has successfully been supported by the community every five years, he said. If it failed, “We’d have to come back to the voters for something, but it’s premature to presuppose what that might be,” he added.

Brown said the school district will spend no money on a levy campaign. Instead, it plans to offer information through the district’s website and the media.

Archbold Area Schools are also seeking renewal of a five-year operating levy. The 4.98-mill emergency renewal levy will continue to raise the $1.1 million annually in revenue it has brought in since first passed as a 4.91-mill emergency levy in 2006.

Rex said a couple of changes in millage over the past 10 years reflects changes in property valuation and other taxation but has not raised the amount collected. “It’s an existing tax they’re paying. It’s important for people to know we’re not asking for new money,” Rex said.

He’s confident it will be approved, saying, “Our community has been very supportive of the schools.”

However, should it fail in March the renewal levy would likely be placed on the ballot again in November, and, if necessary, again the following spring.

Losing that revenue would prove a big loss to the district, since it provides almost 10 percent of the operating budget, Rex said.

“We’d have to evaluate what we’re doing. We’d definitely be looking at things we’d need to change,” he said. “We really don’t want to cut programs, and we wouldn’t want to reduce staff, but we’d have to look at changes in the way we do things.”

Rex said without the levy, the district’s revenue carryover would dry up in about two years, and a new levy would have to be considered.

“We’ve done a good job of managing our dollars,” he said. “Each year, we look at things to reduce when purchasing services. And we’re always looking at staffing, and how to fill (vacated) positions in an effective way.”

The district has managed its finances efficiently enough that no student programs have faced being cut. “We’ve actually expanded some of the things we do,” Rex said.

It also has used a wind turbine, new heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment, and LED lighting to reduce utility costs by over $200,000 in the past three years. In one month alone, the combined electricity bill for the high school and middle school totaled $2,200 – a significant drop from the approximately $11,000 cost from four years ago.

“This is our taxpayers’ dollars, and we try to spend them as wisely as we can,” Rex said. “It’s been a team effort. Everyone is always looking for the best way to spend our money and serve our students.”

By David J. Coehrs

[email protected]

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.