Nearly two dozen school, public safety tax levies on March ballot

Much of the focus of Ohio’s March 17 election will be the presidential primary, but local voters will also see about two dozen levies on the ballot, half of them seeking to raise residents’ tax rates.

At the top of the list are the Bellbrook, Troy and Valley View school districts, plus four public safety agencies – Fairborn, West Carrollton, Jackson Twp. and Newton/Pleasant Hill – all asking for tax increases to improve services or build new facilities.

RELATED: Greene voters to decide on sales tax hike for jail

The only countywide levy in the immediate Dayton area is Greene County’s request for a 12-year, 0.25 percent sales tax increase to fund construction of a new, larger jail that would cost $70 million.

Governments had until Wednesday to file their tax levies. County boards of election will review them and officially certify those issues to the ballot in the coming days. The deadline to register to vote is Feb. 18.

School levies

Valley View: This ballot measure is a two-part levy combined in a single-vote issue. A 5.5-mill, 37-year property tax bond issue would help pay for a new Valley View campus on land immediately west or south of the current high school.

The district, with funding help from the state, would build the kindergarten to grade 5 and grade 9-12 portions of the campus now, while grades 6-8 would go to school in the existing high school, which is the district’s newest building. The construction approach would allow Valley View to add a grade 6-8 wing in the future without having to install new HVAC and electrical systems.

MAY 2019: Voters reject Valley View operating levy

2017 STORY: Bond levy leads to contentious campaign

The other piece of the Valley View vote is a 37-year, 0.5 percent income tax increase to pay for daily operating costs, after the district made recent budget cuts. Voters rejected previous building bond issues in 2016 and 2017 and rejected an operating levy in May.

Superintendent Ben Richards said the district is trying to find ways to re-purpose existing school buildings, some of which date to the 1920s, given the value the community places on its history. Previous bond levy votes have divided the community.

"It's trying to make a balance of how can we respect the history that we have that we're very proud of, while still providing facilities that will support and engage students here in the 21st century?" Richards said. "You're never going to get 100% (support). The whole approach has been no one's going to get everything they want, but hopefully as many people as possible get something they want."

Troy: Voters in the Troy school district also will decide on a two-part, one-vote bond issue, in their case to replace their seven aging elementary schools with four new buildings, some in different locations, also with funding help from the state.

DETAILS: Troy seeks to build new elementary schools

Both levies would be 37 years – a 6.54-mill bond issue to construct the buildings and a 0.5-mill levy for ongoing care of the new schools. Two years ago, Troy voters rejected a different plan to build two large new elementary schools and renovate the high school.

Bellbrook: The Bellbrook-Sugarcreek district is asking for a new 5.7-mill levy to pay for day-to-day operations. Like Valley View, the district made some budget cuts after voters soundly rejected a previous levy in May.

RELATED: Bellbrook schools make budget cuts after levy fails

That May levy featured a tense campaign, including criminal charges for sign stealing, plus months of supporters and opponents lobbing accusations at each other on social media.

Public safety levies

Fairborn: Voters will decide on a 10-year, 0.5 percent income tax hike that would pay for police and fire operations. City Manager Rob Anderson said the increase (from 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent) would generate about $4.8 million annually for the police and fire funds.

DETAILS: Fairborn tax hike would affect those who work in city

“The opioid crisis has hit our departments hard,” Anderson said. “We’re a small-town police force dealing with big-city problems.”

West Carrollton: The city is asking for a new 3.9-mill fire/EMS levy to hire more full-time staff and avoid ongoing brownouts (or temporary closures) of fire stations due to lack of personnel.

DETAILS: West Carrollton struggles to hire firefighters

The city has relied heavily on part-time firefighters, but like many other jurisdictions, is having trouble hiring and keeping them.

Pleasant Hill/Newton: The small Miami County fire district will have two levies on the ballot, according to the Miami County Board of Elections. One is a 28-year, 1.75-mill bond issue for construction of a new fire station and the other is a permanent 2.8-mill levy for operations. In November, voters narrowly rejected a slightly larger request that was packaged into a single vote.

Jackson Twp.: Voters in the rural Montgomery County township near New Lebanon and Farmersville will vote on a five-year, 2-mill increase to pay for police services.

Greene County, other levies

All Greene County residents can vote on whether to increase the county’s sales tax by 0.25 percent for the next 12 years to build a $70 million jail with increased capacity. The 500-bed jail and a new sheriff’s office would be built next to the juvenile justice center on Greene Way Boulevard, west of downtown Xenia.

Sheriff Gene Fischer said increasing the sales tax rather than property tax allows the county to “share the cost with the out-of-towners.”

Wright Library: Oakwood residents will vote on a permanent, 1.5-mill additional levy to support day-to-day operations at the library on Far Hills Avenue.

Washington Twp.: Residents of the unincorporated part of the township (outside of the city of Centerville), will vote on a five-year, 2.3-mill replacement levy for police services that would slightly increase tax rates.

Harveysburg: Residents of the Warren County village will decide on a five-year, 2.5-mill additional levy to pay for street repairs.

Substitute levies: Residents of the Beavercreek and Cedar Cliff school districts will vote on substitute levies, which keep existing homeowners tax rates the same, but allows for revenue growth when new construction occurs.

Renewals: Another eight communities will vote on renewal levies that extend existing tax rates into future years (see chart).

Staff writers Bonnie Meibers and Nick Blizzard contributed to this report.

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