Tuesday, November 23, 1999

Talawanda has forum on funding

What size levy will win voter support?

Enquirer Contributor

        OXFORD — Educators in the Talawanda schools want the community's views before deciding whether to ask voters to approve an income or property tax to pay for schools.

        The school board is considering putting one money issue on the March ballot for operations, along with a bond issue to build a high school and repair other buildings.

        The issue will be aired at a special meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Talawanda Middle School.

        “We're hoping to come out of the meeting with some direction,” district Treasurer James Rowan said.

        Voters this month rejected a combination question that included a 0.75 percent income tax for operations and a 5.84-mill bond issue for construction. Had it passed, operating dollars would have been used to add staff, increase teacher salaries and pay for day-to-day operations. Talawanda is facing a money shortfall by the end of the 2001-02 school year, Mr. Rowan said.

        “Maybe the issues need to be split. Maybe the income tax is too hard to swallow,” school board President William Vollmer said. “We had 80 percent of the voters in Reily, Hanover and Milford townships tell us no. We need to address their concerns.”

        Figures prepared by Mr. Rowan show a 0.75 percent income tax won't be enough money to cover district ex penses if the issue were put on the March ballot and passed, largely because it takes 18 months after passage before a district fully collects income. By not passing the issue in 1999, collections will be delayed a full year, he said.

        Even a 1 percent income tax, expected to raise about $4.6 million when fully collected, might not be enough to keep the district solvent for more than two years. Besides the income tax, the board is looking at a 7.5-mill emergency levy that, if approved next year, would raise $3.2 million each year with collections beginning in January 2001. That would keep the district solvent through June 30, 2003.

        Also being considered is a higher bond issue, Mr. Rowan said. The cost of construction has increased about 12 percent since costs were first computed. The district's bonding capacity also has increased because recent property valuations increased. Instead of borrowing $34 million, the district can borrow up to $38 million, Mr. Rowan said.

        “That's our biggest concern — construction costs,” he said. “We want to make sure we have enough money to finish the projects we outlined.”

        A 5.96-mill bond issue would raise $38.2 million and cost the owner of a house with a market value of $100,000 an additional $183 in taxes, Mr. Rowan said. That compares with a 5.3-mill bond issue to raise $34 million, costing $162 annually. A 7.5 mill emergency levy would cost $230 annually.

        Mr. Rowan said he would prepare a handout for those in attendance at the Nov. 29 meeting that would outline several options and their costs.


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