53 tax levies headed for fall ballot

Officials say state cuts have created funding gaps.

A higher number of local governments and schools are seeking tax increases on the November ballot, with many saying they’re trying to fill funding gaps created by state cuts.

There will be 53 tax levies on the Nov. 8 ballot from Montgomery, Greene, Miami and Warren counties, with 27 of those levies seeking funding increases. The past two November elections saw 21 and 16 levies seeking funding increases, and the number was 16 in March’s primary election as well.

None of those three previous elections has hit 50 total tax levies.

Explore>>> DATA: Property tax levies on the November 2016 ballot

Centerville will ask voters for the city’s first income tax increase in 35 years, from 1.75 percent to 2.25 percent. City Manager Greg Horn said state cuts, including elimination of the estate tax and reduction of the local government fund, have cost his city almost $3 million of a $16 million annual general fund budget.

“That is why you’ve seen in the past few years everybody going forward with new tax levies,” Horn said. “We’ve held off. Council wanted to see if we could work our way out of this thing with economic growth, but … you would have to have a few years of double-digit growth to come close to filling those kind of holes.”

All types of local government agencies are represented on November’s levy list.

The city of Dayton joins Centerville with an income tax increase on the ballot, with both cities hoping to use the money for road paving and public safety (Dayton’s would also pay to increase pre-school access).

Fairborn, Xenia, Valley View and Jefferson Twp. schools are asking for money to construct new school buildings, while Oakwood and West Carrollton are asking for general school operating funds.

And a bevy of cities and townships are seeking extra funding — Troy for parks and recreation, Harrison Twp. for police, Bath Twp. in Greene County for roads and Sugarcreek Twp. for fire/EMS.

Voting trends

Roughly half of the levies on the Nov. 8 ballot are renewals, which ask voters to extend the existing tax rate for another five or 10 years, or in some cases make them permanent at that rate.

Local voters have been willing in recent years to approve almost all renewal levies. In the three elections referenced earlier, 68 of 69 renewals passed.

Several large renewals are on the November ballot — Miami Twp. fire, Warren County senior services, and Brookville and Milton-Union schools all seek to extend levies that bring in more than $1 million per year.

Not surprisingly, levies asking for tax increases (either replacements or brand-new levies) see more mixed results. In the previous three election cycles, 29 tax-increase levies passed and 24 were rejected.

Sugarcreek Twp. in Greene County has one of each type on the November ballot — a 0.8-mill renewal of road levy, and a 2.9-mill replacement of a fire levy, raising the annual cost on a $100,000 property from $54 to $101.

Township Administrator Barry Tiffany said state cuts have had some impact, but the main reason for the fire levy request is the need for better equipment. Expensive fire engines and medic units are aging and breaking down, he said.

Tiffany knows levy supporters will have some persuading to do.

“They will have to do the work, and educate people and make people understand the situation,” he said. “You can’t just put it on the ballot and say, ‘we need it.’ We’re going to have to demonstrate the need.”

School facilities

Four of the seven school districts asking for tax increases are seeking the money to replace aging buildings — Fairborn, Xenia, Valley View and Jefferson Twp. And that’s one case where state money is a benefit.

Mark North, new superintendent of Fairborn City Schools, said the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission will cover $23 million of the $58 million cost to replace Fairborn’s two worst buildings — the primary and intermediate schools.

“When the buildings are assessed, (the architects) score each piece as satisfactory, needs repair or needs replaced. … Nothing in either building scored as satisfactory,” North said. “If we have an opportunity to build two brand new elementary buildings for 40 percent off, we need to take advantage of this. … Why would we pass that opportunity up?”

Local schools seeking general operating money include high-performing Oakwood, where voters have approved funding increases every three years, and West Carrollton, which hasn’t passed a new levy in nine years.