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Lebanon schools move to seek levy renewal

$3 million a year tied to issue expected to be on March ballot.

Voters in the Lebanon school district likely will find an emergency renewal levy issue on their March presidential primary ballots.

On Monday, the Lebanon City Schools Board of Education took the first step, unanimously approving a resolution to request that Warren County Auditor Matt Nolan calculate the exact millage needed to raise $3 million a year in property taxes for five years.

“Renewal of existing levies is critical to maintaining the financial health of the district,” Treasurer Eric Sotzing said during a presentation to the board.

The district has a five-year, 3.9-mill levy that expires in 2016.

There would be no additional cost to district taxpayers, if the renewal is approved. The levy should continue to cost property owners about $120 for every $100,000 of property value, according to Nolan.

The district also will need to pass renewals in 2016, 2017 and 2018. District officials said that one of those levies also will need to raise new money to keep the district’s books in balance in coming years.

“We need a new-money levy, probably in 2017, we need to prepare for,” Board member Ryan Patterson said before Monday’s vote.

Once Nolan calculates the renewal millage, the school board is expected to pass a second resolution in December, directing election officials to place the levy on March 15 election ballots.

It would be the first renewal sought of the levy, first passed on Nov. 8, 2011 by 50.6 percent of voters.

“We have not asked for new local operating funds since the 2011 levy and told taxpayers at the time it would last five years. We will exceed that expectation as we are only asking for a renewal and no new taxes for 2016,” Sotzing said.

If rejected in March, the school board could place the issue on the ballot in August and again November, if necessary.

“We have not identified specific budget cuts that would occur as a result if the levy failed,” Sotzing said in an email.

Earlier this month, city voters soundly defeated a proposed 0.25 percent increase in the local income tax to raise money to fix local roads.

But district voters have supported recent school levies.

In August 2013, voters renewed a five-year permanent improvement levy.

In November 2013, voters approved a bond issue for the local share of $72 million in school construction and a 19-year, 0.5-mill operating levy to support the expansion.

In August 2014, more than 66 percent of voters approved renewal of a three-year emergency levy raising $4.2 million a year and expiring in 2017.