Northmont seeks school tax levy in May election, cites deficit spending

The school district has slightly more than average in the bank, ranked very high in student academic progress last year

Northmont school district residents will vote on a 7.82-mill property tax levy in the May 2 election — an issue that would raise $5.8 million annually for the school district if passed, and would cost homeowners about $274 per $100,000 in property value.

The tax request is the second largest “new-money” levy in the Dayton area, behind only the Huber Heights school district, which is seeking 8.12 mills.

The schools say the new tax levy is needed because the district is spending more than it takes in from revenues last school year and this year, a situation they do not expect to change unless the district passes a levy.

The new money would go to the district’s general fund, which pays for most day-to-day expenses, such as teacher and staff pay and benefits, utilities and classroom materials.

Northmont schools spokeswoman Jenny Wood cited an increase in expenses attributed to inflation, supply chain disruptions, and an increase in needs from students.

In their five-year financial forecast, Northmont projects a 0.29% increase in revenue between fiscal years 2022 and 2027, but an increase of 29% in expenses. Within that 29% increase is a 26% increase in salaries and benefits.

Northmont officials said in an FAQ on the district’s website that the district has cut building budgets, which pay for items like copy paper and busing for field trips, by about 5%, and eliminated an administrative position. The district says it will continue to, “look for ways to remain responsible and efficient to stretch our operating dollars as long as possible.”

If the May levy doesn’t pass, Northmont is expected to cut building budgets by an additional 3%, according to a presentation by superintendent Tony Thomas at a March 13 school board meeting. Cuts would also include 29 staff positions, including teachers and administrators, and school-sponsored field trips. Fees for sports and extracurriculars and apps on school devices would double. The board would also consider closing Englewood Elementary earlier than anticipated, after the school board delayed the decision earlier this year due to community pushback.

According to Northmont’s five-year forecast, as of last summer, the district had about 46% of a year’s spending in the bank, which is slightly higher than the average Dayton-area school district, according to a recent Dayton Daily News survey.

Northmont officials do not anticipate running out of money until the 2025-2026 school year, according to the five-year forecast. That’s unlikely to happen, as school districts are legally required to either make cuts or raise more money to balance the budget.

The last time Northmont schools asked voters for a new tax levy was March 2016, with a 5.99 mill levy, which was approved by 51% of voters.

“The community has historically been supportive of strong schools and the investment needed to offer programs to benefit workforce development,” Wood said.

According to Ohio Department of Education data, Northmont spent $14,712 per pupil in 2021-22, about $1,000 more than the state median. About 31% of Ohio school districts spent more.

According to the most recent state report card, about 37% of Ohio school districts scored higher than Northmont on state test performance index. But on year-over-year student progress, Northmont earned five out of five stars and ranked among the top 5% in the state.

So far, public reaction to the levy request has been mixed. Some voters on social media said they would continue to support the school district and vote yes, but others said property taxes in the area – which includes Englewood, Union, and Clayton – are too high, so they can’t justify an increase.

Northmont schools parent Kevin Mullinex said he hadn’t heard much about the tax levy so far but planned to look into it.

“I’m not thrilled about more taxes,” he said.

Jamey Ishman, another Northmont parent, said he also hadn’t heard much about it, but would research the topic.

“I just want to know what it’s for,” he said. “I want it to be broken down.”

Citizens for Northmont, an organization running the campaign for the levy, is holding a public meeting Wednesday, April 12 at Happy Corner Church at 5:30 p.m.

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