Lebanon schools seek approval of renewal levy to avoid $3M deficit

ajc.com

Voters in the Lebanon City School District will be asked May 4 to renew a 2.83-mill emergency operating levy for another five years.

This will be the third time that this levy has been considered by voters. According to the Warren County Board of Election, this levy was first approved in 2011 and renewed in 2016.

If the proposed levy is approved by voters, it would cost a property owner about $86.67 per $100,000 of valuation, according to Warren County Auditor Matt Nolan.

ExploreSpringboro schools seek new continuing levy for permanent improvements as another levy expires

Interim Superintendent Robert Buskirk said the levy will not raise taxes on property owners and will maintain school operations at current levels.

Buskirk said the levy remains an emergency levy renewal because if it was changed to a continuing levy, the new levy would actually increase taxes.

“This is the best bang for the buck,” he said. “It keeps taxes lower in the district.”

Treasurer Eric Sotzing said revenues from this levy equate to $3 million of the district’s $55 million annual budget.

If voters do not renew the emergency operating levy in 2021, the Board of Education would have to look at options to cover the deficit, Sotzing said.

According to the Auditor of State’s website, an emergency renewal levy can be used for school operations and can only generate a fixed amount of revenues during the levy period. In Lebanon’s case, the district can only receive $3 million in revenues. The millage amount is based on the current valuation of the district.

Citizens For Lebanon Schools has initiated levy campaign. Rebecca Strole, a committee member said taxpayers will not see an increase if the renewal levy is approved.

“If it fails, the impact will hurt the district,” she said. “The district has received funding cuts from the state and has experienced substantial cost increases due to COVID-19. The district ranks fourth from the bottom of all school districts in the state in per pupil expenditures, Strole said.

Strole said, “we’re very fortunate to have great teachers, administrators, bus drivers and staff in our district. We want voters to turn out for the levy.”

However, there are some voters on social media that feel that the tax should drop off the books and give property owners a break.

Marie Sawyer, who is retired, said she has no problem helping kids. But in the current climate where families are struggling, she said paying for property taxes is not helping any.

She thinks taxpayers needs to step back and “take a breather.” Sawyer also noted the city has approved tax abatements on projects on Broadway that are under way.

“In light of these things, I’m voting No!” she said.

Another resident, Tanya Supinger, said seniors can’t afford taxes. She said even with renewals, taxes will go up and that they don’t go down when property values are lost because of inflation.

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