Levy defeats could mean tax increases in Franklin, Madison Twp.

In most cases, people vote against tax levies in hopes of receiving a reduction. However, voters in the Madison and Franklin school districts will determine renewals of operating levies on the Feb. 3 special election ballot, and a “no” vote will increase their taxes.

If voters in either district pass their levies, there will be no increase in their current taxes. If voters fail their levies, their property taxes will increase due to a change in state law that eliminates the 12.5 percent in tax rollbacks for levies passed before August 2013 and are not renewed or converted. The state funds districts the difference for the tax rollbacks to hold them harmless from the reduction.

In Madison Twp., voters will be asked to renew the district’s operating levy that costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $217 a year, said Curtis Philpot, the third-year superintendent. He said the levy generates $1.1 million for day-to-day expenses involved in operating the district, and the funds represent about 9 percent of the district’s budget.

He said voters passed a levy in 2005, and a renewal in 2010.

School officials said the district’s costs per pupil of $8,932 places it $1,500 below the state average and in the bottom half of per pupil expenditure in Butler County. Philpot said to control finances, teachers accepted a three-year pay freeze from 2011-13, administrators took a five-year pay freeze from 2009-13, and staff reductions were made through attrition, consolidation and reorganization that saved the district $142,000 in the summer of 2014.

Philpot said the district needs to maintain the funding, otherwise in a few years, it could be “upside down.” He said Madison Twp., a bedroom community, doesn’t receive large financial tax support from industries, so it lives “paycheck to paycheck.”

Philpot, a Madison Twp. resident, said passing the renewal makes “good financial sense.”

The district said in the last several years, at a time when the budget has been reduced, it added honors classes at the junior high level, Advancement Placement courses for high school students, and Measures of Academic Progress testing throughout the district to gauge every students growth and achievement.

If the renewal fails, Philpot said, programs and staff would have to be reduced. He mentioned all-day kindergarten, transportation, and fine arts programs. He compared the cuts to “amputation,” and said they would cause “irreparable damage” to the district and its reputation.

Meanwhile, Franklin Superintendent Michael Sander said the levy committee has been going to various school and athletic events for the past several weeks passing out flyers and trying to educate voters that a “no” vote for the renewal levy will increase their taxes. Committee members are also working to contact parents and residents about the levy.

Franklin’s levy is Issue 1 on the Warren County ballot for the February special election ballot. The 8.88-mill renewal levy generates about $4.07 million a year for the district’s current operations.

If it passes, district officials said it would avoid a projected $2.42 million cash deficit at the end of the 2015-2016 fiscal year and would keep the district in the black until 2020 to 2024, based on past financial trends of the district, according to Treasurer Jana Bellamy.

Passage of the levy also means the owner of a $100,000 home will also avoid paying an additional $88.14 a year because of a change in state law.

She said the state provides “hold harmless” funding for the levy that amounts to $581,787, or about 14.3 percent of the levy amount, to cover the tax rollback.

If the levy fails, voters would need to pass a 10.4-mill levy to make up that revenue loss, Bellamy said.

The levy was originally approved in 2005 and renewed in 2010.

Franklin schools has to get the levy passed by the end of 2015 when the current levy expires. If the levy is rejected, it will be on the May special election ballot, district officials have said. Should voters approve the levy in February, that ballot request will be withdrawn.

Tom Combs, of Hunter, a former school board member, said he was for the levy and thinks levy supporters need to drive the point home concerning the possible tax rollback loss.

“It’s a renewal, and I’m 100 percent for it,” he said.

Jim Porter, a longtime resident, said both of his daughters received a fine education in the Franklin schools.

“I’ve always supported levies, and I don’t know why I wouldn’t,” said Porter, who is a retired Monroe school teacher.

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