Three school districts ask for substitute tax levies; more ask for renewals

Three large school districts in the region have substitute property tax levies on the ballot this November, meaning those districts are asking voters to replace existing levies with a different levy. Six other school districts have renewals of various levies on the ballot.

Greene County auditor David Graham said substitute levies generally do not require existing taxpayers to pay more, and they can bring in new revenues from new homes being built. The substitute levies guarantee that whatever dollar amount came in from the levy the previous year to the school district will come in the next year, plus any new revenue from the tax rate being applied to new homes.

That’s opposed to an emergency levy, where the total dollar amount the levy can bring in remains the same year after year, but the amount of property tax people are charged depends on changes in the value of homes and how many people are paying into the levy.

Miamisburg school levy

Miamisburg schools have a $14 million substitute levy on the ballot this November that would replace two other current levies for the school district.

Miamisburg school treasurer John Espy said the substitute levy would not raise taxes on anyone already paying school tax.

The levy is a continuous levy, meaning if it is approved, it will continue into perpetuity, and voters won’t vote on it again. The annual cost per $100,000 of home value would be $452 (the same amount being paid today) according to the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office.

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The new 14.76-mill levy would replace an 8.65-mill, five-year emergency renewal levy approved in 2017 that will expire in 2023 and a five-year, 8.3-mill substitute levy approved in 2019 that will expire in 2025.

Miamisburg expected a revenue surplus last school year of about $2 million, according to the district’s most recent five-year forecast filed in May. That would mark the third year of the past four that the district had operated in the black, although Espy said that’s only because of federal COVID relief funds being available.

Miamisburg projects a significant increase in expenses in 2023-24, suggesting the district would operate at multimillion-dollar annual deficits after that point, even if this levy is approved, and would deplete its fund balance in spring 2026.

Lebanon school levy

Lebanon City Schools is requesting a 10-year, 9.64-mill substitute levy bringing in about $12.2 million per year. The cost would continue to be $318.52 annually for each $100,000 in home value.

School district officials said this levy would replace three levies, including:

  • A levy generating $4.2 million annually that was renewed by voters in 2020 and expires in 2023. It has been renewed five times in the last 15 years.
  • A levy generating $3 million annually that was renewed by voters in 2021 and expires in 2026. It has been renewed two times in the last 10 years.
  • A levy generating $5 million annually that was approved by voters in 2019 and expires in 2023.

Warren County Auditor Matt Nolan recommended at least 10 years for the lifespan of the levy. The long time period also helps stabilize the district’s income, which could help the district attract and retain good teachers, school officials said.

Lebanon Schools had a 2021-22 revenue surplus of slightly more than $1 million, which marked its third straight year operating narrowly in the black. The current five-year forecast projects another slight surplus for the current school year, but Lebanon projects expenses to increase in the future, causing the district to operate with an annual deficit going forward. Unlike many schools, Lebanon does not anticipate running out of funds during the next five years if this levy is approved.

Franklin school levy

Franklin is requesting a 13.93-mill substitute levy for current expenses, bringing in about $7.75 million per year over five years. The cost would continue to be $465.91 annually per $100,000 in home property value.

School treasurer Kevin Hawley said the current substitute levy on the ballot is a renewal of a substitute levy last passed in 2018. The levy makes up about 21% of the school’s budget, and mainly pays into the general fund, which pays for items like teachers’ salaries and electric bills.

“Ultimately it’s incredibly important to the district. It’s incredibly important to the community,” Hawley said. “Because it’s 21% of our budget, we definitely rely heavily upon it.”

The district’s five-year forecast from May 2022, the most recent forecast, shows the amount of money the district will be spending on staff salaries and benefits is expected to rise very gradually in the next five years.

Franklin’s forecast projects the district will basically run out of money by summer 2024, even if this levy is passed, due to prior deficit spending that is projected to continue into the future. Hawley said the district is hoping that the new state funding formula will bring in enough money, but if it does not, the district may need to ask voters for more levy money. There isn’t a definite timeline on when that would happen.

Renewal levies

School districts seeking renewal levies are asking voters to extend taxes they’re already paying, at the same rate, for a longer period of years.

  • Xenia schools are asking for a renewal of a seven-year tax levy that generates $7.6 million annually. It would continue to cost $303.19 per $100,000 in property value. The levy is listed as an “emergency” on the ballot, a term for a levy that raises a fixed sum per year for the jurisdiction’s regular operations.
  • Oakwood is asking taxpayers to renew a 1.8-mill levy costing taxpayers $44.49 annually per $100,000 in property value for five years. It is meant to go towards permanent improvements and brings in about $534,159 annually.
  • New Lebanon Schools have two renewal property tax levies on the ballot, one each for current expenses and permanent improvements. One, a 2.8-mill levy, costs $71.76 annually per $100,000 in home value, and brings in about $265,665 in revenue. The other, a 7-mill levy, costs $179.39 annually per $100,000 in home value and brings in about $664,164, according to the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office.
  • Milton-Union is requesting renewal of a 10.9-mill tax levy that raises about $1.9 million annually. It costs residents $261.71 per year per each $100,000 in property valuation.
  • Tri-County North Schools in Preble County are requesting a 10-year emergency levy, which is a renewal of an existing levy that goes toward operating costs. It brings in about $618,000 per year and costs $150.50 per year per $100,000 of property valuation.
  • Cedar Cliff is requesting a renewal property tax levy worth $254,000 per year. It is a 3-mill levy that would last five years and cost $63.21 per $100,000 in property value annually.

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