Troy school board debates necessity of small tax, with new schools on horizon

The existing tax pays for upkeep of district schools; seven of those schools will be replaced in about four years

TROY — The Troy City Schools Board of Education debated the short-term need for renewing a permanent improvement levy to care for school buildings, some a century old, following voter approval Nov. 7 of a long-term bond issue to build four new schools.

The debate was sparked by board member Levi Fox, who said he thought the board needed to at least consider reducing the requested millage of an existing 1.1-mill, five-year levy that is proposed to go before voters in March.

The permanent improvement levy request would follow voter approval of a 4.66-mill bond issue for 37 years and a 2.3-mill tax levy for 29 years to construct three new preschool to fourth-grade buildings, plus one for grades five and six, while updating the high school built in 1959. The 4.66-mill and 2.3-mill taxes were approved by voters via a single vote Nov. 7.

The district could have placed this 1.1-mill permanent improvement levy renewal on the November ballot along with the other levies, but chose to wait until March to allow for November voters to focus on the proposal to build new schools.

The 1.1-mill permanent improvement levy generates around $790,000 a year to maintain buildings.

Fox said he saw the permanent improvement renewal as more of a want instead of a need. The district needs to be “Band-Aiding buildings ... We don’t want to put any more money into these than we absolutely have to … when we are going to tear them down,” he said.

He asked that the board at least consider waiting until November 2024 to ask voters to vote on the renewal. A decision on the renewal needs to be made by the end November 2024 election, as the tax otherwise expires at the end of calendar-year 2024.

“We are asking for this because we have four years to continue maintaining the buildings we have,” said longtime board member Doug Trostle.

District Treasurer Jeff Price said the money generated by the permanent improvement levy can only be used for maintenance and repairs of buildings. The bond issue money can only be used for the construction-related projects, not any repairs that may come up at existing buildings in the years until the new buildings are ready for use.

“Thankfully, the community passed the bond issue, but it is three years out at least (for new buildings), said board President Sue Borchers. “This is fiscally irresponsible if we do not have funds to maintain these schools and the junior high and high school.”

“I realize it is poor timing, but we still have to maintain our buildings,” said board member Theresa Packard.

Borchers said once new buildings are done and the five-year permanent improvements levy comes up again for renewal, the board then could look at changes to its amount and lifetime. To make changes any sooner, she said again, would be fiscally irresponsible.

The board eventually voted 3-1 to ask the Miami County Auditor to certify the amount of taxes the permanent improvement levy would generate a year. That is the first step toward putting the measure on the March 2024 ballot. Fox voted against asking for the certification.

The board said it would vote in December on the second step, which is asking the county board of elections to place the request on the ballot. Fox said discussion on other options could continue at that December meeting.

The fifth board member, Michael Ham, did not attend the meeting.

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