School districts may remove levies from ballot

Huber Heights considers change, Vandalia-Butler closely exams options.Governor’s budget affects some districts’ plans.

Kettering City Schools may not be the only local district to pull its levy from the May ballot, as school officials closely examine Gov. John Kasich’s proposed school funding plan and pore through hundreds of pages of budget language released last week.

Huber Heights City Schools Superintendent Sue Gunnell said she is “seriously considering” recommending to her school board that the district remove its 9.95-mill operating levy for May and come back with a smaller levy later this year.

Like Kettering, Huber Heights could get more state funding than initially expected.

“We don’t want more (money) than we need,” said Gunnell, echoing a similar sentiment expressed by Kettering officials. “We want to be fiscally responsible. That’s what I represent and what the board represents.”

According to the preliminary data released Feb. 6, Huber Heights could get an additional $3.8 million from the state for fiscal year 2014 and $1 million more for 2015. The 9.95-mill levy, if passed, would generate $6.6 million annually for the district.

Kettering City Schools may receive an extra $2.4 million in 2014 and a $2.7 million bump in 2015. But final funding allocations will not be known until the Ohio Legislature weighs Kasich’s plan and approves a state budget, likely in late June.

The deadline to remove levies from the May ballot is March 13, according to local boards of election.

Vandalia-Butler City Schools, which is slated for the largest percentage increase of area districts in the initial plan, did not confirm intentions for its 6.99-mill levy. The levy would raise about $3.9 million each year.

The district could get $1.8 million in additional funds for 2014 and $1.2 million extra for 2015.

Vandalia-Butler spokeswoman Bethany Reiff said there will be a board meeting and a community meeting this week that likely will touch on this levy’s fate. She added that, even if this funding holds true, the district will need to pass a levy this year.

“It’s like we’re in a 30-foot well and we’ve been thrown a 12-foot ladder,” Reiff said. “It helps, but it’s not going to get us up over the top.”

Kettering and Huber Heights officials each said that, if this funding model remains, they could return to the ballot with levies of lesser millages this year.

Gunnell said Huber Heights could come back with a 5.95-mill levy in August, while Kettering school board member Jim Trent said, “when we find out the (funding) figure, we will make adjustments to the millage.” Kettering officials said they likely would have a levy on the ballot in November.

Officials at the other local school districts with levies on the May ballot, most of which are slated to receive little or no increases in state funding, said they plan to continue with their issues as anticipated.

Piqua City Schools could get an additional $2.3 million combined in the next two years, but Superintendent Rick Hanes said he would hope to apply that toward the money lost in the last few years due to state and federal cuts.

Hanes added that the 5.22-mill levy Piqua has on the May ballot is a renewal levy that sustains the budget and operations of the Miami County district.

Centerville Superintendent Tom Henderson said the 6.9-mill levy up for a vote in May is still the best option for his district, which may get an extra $538,372 for fiscal year 2014 and $264,087 in 2015. By comparison, the levy would generate $10.8 million annually.

Fairborn and Valley View are projected to receive lower percentage increases than Centerville, and Tipp City, Brookville, Covington, Milton-Union, Carlisle and Jefferson Twp. are not expected to see any increase in state funding in the next two years, per this projection.

Tipp City Superintendent John Kronour said, despite the lack of additional funding for his district, the one aspect about the proposed budget that he was happy about was that there were no additional cuts from the state as there were in the last biennial budget.

“Happy is a relative term (though); I’m not happy any time we have to be on the ballot. I wish we didn’t have to fund schools like this,” Kronour said. “I wish the state was giving us enough money, but I think we’re doing the right thing by being on the ballot in May.”

Some districts — including Beavercreek, West Carrollton and Xenia — said they purposefully did not place levies on the May ballot because, at least in part, they wanted to see what the governor’s budget entailed.

“We made our decision in November that we would wait to see what the school funding formula and budget proposal looked like,” West Carrollton Superintendent Rusty Clifford said. “It needs to go through the legislative process. Sooner than later, we’ll get an idea of what we’re looking at.”