Dayton schools cancel levy plans

Whaley, city promise better cooperation with school district.

Dayton’s school board decided Tuesday night not to put a property tax levy on the November ballot.

The 5-mill levy Dayton Public Schools had proposed this summer would have funded expanded preschool, summer and after-school education programs. But it would have partially overlapped with the city of Dayton’s proposed income tax increase, which also aims to expand preschool.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley led a presentation to the school board at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting about ways the city and school district could work together on grant money to fund after-school and summer programs.

Three hours later, when the school levy issue came up on the meeting agenda, the school board let it die without a vote.

“We might be getting less than we could have gotten with a levy, but the key words here are ‘could have gotten,’ ” school board President Adil Baguirov said, calling it a 50-50 possibility that voters would have rejected a levy. “With the grants, nothing is 100 percent, but it’s certainly a far higher probability than 50 percent.”

Dayton voters now will see only one tax levy on the November ballot — the city’s request to increase its income tax rate from 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent. The nearly $11 million that would be raised annually would include $4.3 million to help fund high-quality preschool access for all 4-year-olds in the city, on a sliding cost scale.

Ritika Kurup, assistant director of Learn to Earn Dayton’s early-childhood education program, estimated that less than 10 percent of children in Dayton are currently in any type of after-school or summer education program.

“We know that this is a piece that is woefully not happening in our community. And we know that there are dollars that we can really leverage, that don’t have to come from the community,” Whaley said. “I’m saying this to everyone here publicly. I am willing to go out and work to develop partnerships for Dayton Public Schools (to get) those dollars.”

Kurup said Dayton and Montgomery County have not taken advantage of federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grants specifically targeted for education programs outside the school day. She said each of those grants provides up to $200,000 per year, and a multitude of local agencies could apply.

Baguirov said if voters had approved a levy for the school district in 2016, student performance gains would follow. But he said there were other issues to consider.

“In the spirit of great collaboration with the city, so as not to in any way interfere with their plans on the income tax raising, we decided (this path) would be best,” he said.

Asked if the school district might reconsider a levy next year, Baguirov said it wouldn’t make as much sense. Any levy passed in 2017 would not produce tax revenue until 2018, just months before the district’s deadline to improve or face state takeover.

Both Whaley and school officials made a point of emphasizing efforts to improve their relationship after this month’s levy tension. Whaley said she’ll take responsibility for poor recent communication, and promised there will be monthly meetings going forward involving her, the city manager and school district leadership.

She also pushed for school board members or district administrators to join the City of Learners committee on summer and after-school programs, saying there is no DPS representative at the moment.

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