Election 2017: Local voters to decide on 14 school levies Tuesday

For the third straight election, the local school levy landscape is dominated by districts seeking bond issues to construct new buildings or renovate existing ones.

The Miami Valley Career Technology Center, Troy, Wayne Local and Preble Shawnee all have bond issues on Tuesday’s ballot, seeking to address issues ranging from school safety and failing mechanical systems, to upgraded technology and larger capacity.

VOTERS GUIDE: Learn about your candidates and levies

Those bond issues are the only local school levies that would increase tax rates, as for the second straight election, all of the day-to-day operating levies are renewals or substitutes.

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The draw for bond issues is simple. If local voters agree to pay for part of the project via property taxes, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) will chip in millions of dollars. But these are different from the standard five-year school levy. Like a 30-year mortgage on your house, most bond issues require a decades-long tax commitment from residents.

Career center affects many

Voters in 27 school districts (see box) will decide whether to help fund a major renovation and expansion of the Miami Valley Career Technology Center using a combined property tax/bond issue. Voters rejected the same issue by a 52-48 percent vote in May. School districts with their own, in-house career tech centers, such as Kettering and Dayton, do not vote on the bond issue.

RELATED: Voters rejected MVCTC issue in May

Superintendent Nick Weldy said the $158 million project would improve safety, capacity and technology at the Clayton campus that educates more than 1,500 students.

On safety, MVCTC would be able to put more of its campus under a single roof with controlled entrances, rather than having students shuttle between multiple buildings with less secure doors.

On technology, Weldy said MVCTC still trains high school and adult students on some precision machining and welding equipment that is nearly 50 years old, with employers urging them to upgrade.

RELATED: How Troy would split students between schools

On capacity, Weldy said MVCTC had to turn away more than 300 high school students this fall, and the bond issue would allow the school to train more students in high-demand fields to help the region’s economy.

“Sinclair doesn’t offer a heavy equipment program or an electrician program, among others. In some (fields), we’re the only link in 12-13 counties,” Weldy said. “It’s pretty vital both on the high school and the adult side to keep this moving forward. With demand (for graduates) going up, our economic vitality in the region is only going to be limited by how many employees we can produce.”

The combined property tax/bond issue would generate about $130 million. It would be 1.43 mills for the first 10 years, then drop to 1.09 mills for the final 20 years. The cost for a $100,000 home would start at $50 per year, then drop to $38. If voters approve the levy, the state will contribute $28.3 million to the project.

Other bond levies

** Troy: The district would replace seven existing schools with two new elementaries if voters approve a 4.61-mill, 30-year request that includes money for upkeep of the new buildings. The bond issue would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $161 a year.

If the measure passes, the school board would buy 58 acres off Ohio 55 and Nashville Road, just west of the city limits, to build one school for preschool through second grade and the other for third through sixth grades.

District officials have emphasized air conditioning, better security and handicap accessibility as key improvements to current schools that average 70 years old with aging mechanical systems.

** Wayne Local: The Waynesville district wants to replace an old elementary school with a new two-story building, while saving the school’s historic 1915 façade and constructing a new community center on the existing school campus.

The 4.68-mill bond issue would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $163.80 annually, and the state would contribute $4.5 million to the school portion of the project, which includes parking and transportation upgrades.

Superintendent Pat Dubbs said the old elementary’s classrooms are 30 percent smaller than state standards, limiting instructional flexibility. The building has no air conditioning, and Dubbs said poor electrical capacity limits use of technology.

** Preble Shawnee: Shawnee voters will decide on a combination property tax levy/income tax increase to pay for a new elementary in Camden and a new middle/high school between Gratis and West Elkton. They have already rejected the proposal twice.

The 2.5-mill property tax would cost $87.50 annually for a $100,000 home, and would be paired with a 0.75 percent income tax. The state would pay $29.2 million of the $51.5 million project cost if voters approve the local share.

RELATED: More details on Beavercreek levy

Substitute levies

Two major suburbs, Beavercreek and Springboro, are asking voters to approve substitute levies to replace existing emergency levies. If the levies pass, existing residents’ tax rates would stay the same, but the levies would become permanent.

An emergency levy raises a specific dollar amount each year from the community as a whole, so if new construction increases the overall tax base, each individual property pays a smaller share.

RELATED: Springboro levy, school board race

But when a substitute levy passes, the tax rate (rather than the dollar amount) stays fixed, meaning as new construction occurs, the school district’s tax revenue can rise.

Beavercreek’s substitute levy, which was rejected in May, is 6 mills, while Springboro’s is 7.4 mills. Some Beavercreek residents have opposed the change from a five-year levy to a permanent measure. Beavercreek Superintendent Paul Otten said if the levy passes, the revenue growth will allow the district to wait longer before its next levy request.

Renewal levies

Three districts are asking voters to renew day-to-day operating levies at the same tax rate, but make them permanent – Kettering (4.89 mills), Vandalia-Butler (6.99 mills) and Miami East (3.5 mills).

Vandalia-Butler voter Ben Jones is upset that the district’s signs advertise the levy as “no new money,” but don’t mention that the levy would become permanent, which he said means “a ton” of new money.

V-B Superintendent Rob O’Leary said the district and levy supporters have been clear at community events and on websites that the levy would become permanent. O’Leary said nearly $5 million per year in lost tangible personal property tax funding is not coming back, so the district is planning for those long-term needs.

Four other school districts have five-year renewal levies on the ballot at the existing tax rate – Miamisburg (8.65-mill operating levy), Milton-Union (10.9-mill operating levy), Cedar Cliff (3.0-mill facilities levy) and New Lebanon which has two levies. One is a 7.0-mill operating levy and the other is a 2.8-mill facilities levy.

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