Voters to decide on numerous tax levies; large value hike complicates issue

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The March 19 election presents an interesting challenge for school districts, cities and others that hope their residents will vote yes on new tax levies.

Voters will be making those decisions a month or two after many of them saw their property taxes increase, tied not to elections and levies, but to soaring home prices and a regularly scheduled property revaluation by some counties.

In Montgomery County, the average property tax bill just went up 6% this year, but there’s wide variation among individual cities and townships. Miami Twp.’s average increase was over 12%, according to the county auditor. Greene County’s average property tax bill increase is 13%, while the city of Xenia average is a 21% rise.

Last fall, when it became clear that property valuations would soar and taxes would rise, county auditors tried to explain the impact and state legislators considered changes in law.

“Everybody always likes to talk about seniors and that we’ve got to protect them, we can’t tax them out of their homes, but it’s not just seniors,” Greene County Auditor David Graham said last fall. “We have people out there who are making less than $30,000 a year who own a home, and we also have to worry about them. Are we taxing them out of their home?”

It’s not like tax levies were an easy sell even back in the November election before people paid those new tax bills in February. In the November election, there were 17 basic tax-increase levies in Montgomery, Miami, Greene and Warren counties, and only four of them passed (school issues in Oakwood, Troy and Yellow Springs, plus a fire/EMS levy in the small Miami County town of Covington).

On the other hand, all 22 flat renewal levies passed, as residents were OK with extending existing tax rates out into future years. And not surprisingly, levies that fall in between new ones and renewals (replacement levies, renewal-with-increase, etc.), basically split, with six passing and five being rejected.

The last time there was a large property value increase, back in 2021, fewer jurisdictions even tried new tax levies that spring. In Montgomery and Greene counties there were only four additional levies on the ballot combined — two school levies passing and two city levies failing. This year there are twice as many, plus replacement levies that would also raise taxes.

Some cities and schools putting the tax-increase levies on the March ballot say their hand is somewhat forced.

“We receive a very small amount of state funding, so we are reliant on local property taxes for the largest portion of our school funding. On top of that, the amount we receive each year from locally voted levies is frozen because of state law,” said Centerville City Schools Superintendent Jon Wesney. “This means our revenue remains relatively flat, so as costs increase, schools are faced with having to make significant cuts or ask voters to approve additional funding in order to maintain quality educational programming and services.”

The levies on the March ballot are an interesting mix. There are new-money levies for school construction (Tipp City, Warren County JVS), and daily school operations (Centerville, Franklin and Milton-Union). There are city income tax renewals for a range of purposes (Dayton and Fairborn). And there are big levies and small ones — Tipp City schools are seeking an 8.68-mill increase, while Brookville schools have two levies on the ballot, and even combined they don’t reach 1 full mill.

School construction/facilities levies

Three school districts are asking residents to approve new tax/bond issues so they can build new or expanded facilities — Tipp City, Greeneview and the Warren County Career Center.

Tipp City’s bond issue would pay to replace their three elementary schools and one middle school with a single new building for preschool to eighth grade. But even though they would get state funding help if voters approve, the bond issue would still cost a homeowner $304 for each $100,000 of appraised property value. Voters rejected a Tipp City schools bond issue in 2019 by a 53-47 ratio.

The Warren Career Center hopes to build a secondary campus at their main site to increase capacity and programming, similar to what career tech centers in Montgomery and Greene counties have done in the past few years. Because the project would get state support and draw tax funding from a much broader area if approved, the cost would be $28 per year per $100,000 of property value. Voters rejected a similar measure in November by a narrow margin.

Greeneview schools near Jamestown are also asking voters to reconsider a bond and tax levy for school construction after they soundly rejected a measure in November (63-37). The $33 million project would include $11 million from state and federal sources if voters approve the local share. The current middle school would be renovated and expanded and become the elementary school. A new academic wing for grades 5-8 would be added to the current high school building. And an athletic field house and outdoor practice fields would be constructed. The cost to a resident would be 3.99 mills, or $140 per $100,000 of property value, for 37 years.

Elsewhere, the Waynesville and Brookville school districts are seeking “permanent improvement” levies, which pay for facility maintenance and other long-term assets such as buses. Waynesville’s levy is a five-year 1.65-mill levy that would cost residents an additional $57 per $100,000 in property value. Brookville’s is a flat renewal for five years, still at 0.8 mills.

School operating levies

Operating levies pay for schools’ day-to-day costs, which can include school materials, utilities and more, but are heavily focused on salary and benefits for the many educators, bus drivers and other staff at the heart of schools’ mission.

Centerville schools voters in November solidly rejected a levy that would have increased taxes, by a 57-43 vote ratio. Now the district is seeking a 3.9-mill, $11.2 million levy that would cost an extra $136.50 per year for each $100,000 of home value. Centerville has already committed to $1.27 million in budget cuts. Because Centerville is a wealthier district, it gets less state funding. Recent community meetings have seen mixed comments on whether the district should get new tax funding or reallocate what it already gets.

In Franklin, the school district has been deficit-spending, and their cash balance (about 10% of a year’s expenses) is one of the lowest in the Dayton region. Now Franklin Schools are seeking a five-year, $3.615 million school levy in the March 19 election that would cost a homeowner about $220 in additional taxes per year on a $100,000 home. Treasurer Kevin Hawley said it has been 10 years since the district last asked for a new “additional” school levy for operations.

Milton-Union school voters will decide on a complex income tax increase, rather than all the property tax levies so far. The ballot issue is a permanent, 1% earned income tax for school operations, but if passed, residents’ actual tax bump would be 0.5% because the new levy would be paired with a decrease in a separate facilities-focused levy.

Elsewhere, there are renewal levies. Bethel schools in Miami County is asking voters to renew a 0.75% income tax for day-to-day operations and to make it permanent. Brookville schools are seeking a basic, five-year, 0.15-mill renewal, and Yellow Springs is asking voters to approve a permanent, 9-mill substitute levy.

City/village/township levies

Dayton is asking voters to renew a 0.25% piece of their city income tax for another eight years at the same level. The tax would raise about $15 million annually to pay for universal high quality preschool for kids in the city, fire and police services, road repairs, park improvements, vacant lot maintenance and housing investments.

Oakwood voters will decide on a levy that’s labeled as a new, additional 2.41-mill tax, but there’s an interesting backstory. The city intended to put their existing levy up for renewal in November, but because of a clerical error, it didn’t make the ballot, and the levy expired. The new levy is the city’s attempt to restore that $1.14 million in annual funding for city operations.

The city of Clayton’s income tax measure on the March ballot is complex. If it’s approved, the city income tax rate would rise from 1.5% to 2.5%, but residents would also start getting full credit for taxes paid to other cities. The impact would vary depending where people work, with the change in credit fully offsetting the increase for some residents, while others’ costs would increase.

The city of Lebanon’s fire/EMS levy is unusual in that it decreases tax millage, rather than increasing it. Voters in the city approved an income tax increase in November to pay for fire/EMS costs as the first part of a two-part adjustment. Now comes the vote to cut the property tax levy from 9 mills to 6 mills.

Other city levies on the ballot March 19 include an additional 4-mill public safety levy in Xenia that would be permanent, an additional 3.7-mill public safety levy in Jamestown, a 4.95-mill replacement levy for police services in Riverside that would raise taxes slightly, and two separate votes to renew pieces of Fairborn’s city income tax.



Most of the township tax levies on the March ballot are either renewals or involve smaller communities. The exception is Harrison Twp. in Montgomery County, which will ask voters to approve a pair of 5-mill additional permanent levies — one for fire/EMS services, and the other for general township operations.

Elsewhere among townships, Miami Twp. in Montgomery County is seeking a no-increase renewal of its 5.5-mill police levy, while voters in Miami County’s Elizabeth Twp. will decide on a large 8-mill additional public safety levy.

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