Friday, August 25, 2000

Four school levies on November ballot

By Dan Klepal and Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Four Hamilton County school districts will ask for tax increases in November to build new facilities, take care of existing facilities or pay their teachers more.

        The four school levies are among 35 issues set for ballots this year in Hamilton County. Thursday was the deadline to have levies or questions included.

        Charter amendments can be added to the ballot until Sept. 8.

        Norwood Schools is asking voters to approve a 7.68-mill emergency operating levy that would raise $2.4 million annually over five years. It would cost the owner of an $84,000 home about $128 per year.

        Voters rejected the levy two weeks ago, but Superintendent Barbara Rider said it is appropriate to give the tax another chance. The presidential election will mean a greater voter turnout, she said.

        “We are looking forward to a greater turnout that will give us a true mandate from voters on the direction we should take,” Ms. Rider said.

        The district will have to make budget cuts in 2001 should the levy fail, she said.

        Loveland Schools is asking for even more. A 7-mill increase over four years would raise about $3.5 million annually. The district passed a bond issue in 1998, and now needs more money to maintain its new facilities.

        “We're also anticipating an additional 300 students over the next four years,” Superintendent Mike Cline said.

        Mr. Cline added that the school board adopted a budget-reduction plan, which affects just about every aspect of the budget, in case the levy fails.

        The tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $130 per year.

        The Indian Hill School District wants to pass a 4.18-mill levy so it can sell bonds and raise $49.6 million over 27 years.

        The money would be used to build a new high school and elementary school. The tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $146 every year.

        District Spokeswoman Kaye Gordon said the plan is to build the two new buildings, and renovate the middle school and primary school.

        Cincinnati Public Schools will ask voters to approve a 6-mill levy that would generate $35.8 million a year. It is designed to keep the district in the black for at least four years.

        If the levy passes, it would mean $184 a year in new taxes on a $100,000 home.

        The levy would break down this way:

        • 2 mills, or $11.94 million, to keep pace with an estimated inflation rate of 3.3 percent, as well as textbook and staffing costs.

        • 2 mills, or $11.94 million, for class-size reduction, to allow for classes in grades K-3 to be at a maximum of between 17 to 19 students per teacher.

        • 1 mill, or $5.97 million, for building maintenance.

        • 1 mill, or $5.97 million, for increased spending in neighborhood schools.

        The school district needs to ask for levies on a periodic basis because 60 percent of revenues come from property taxes, school officials said.

        With any approved levy, the amount collected does not increase over time. If passed, the 6-mill levy would always collect $35.8 million a year. As property values rise, the actual millage would be decreased so the levy would not bring in more than the amount voters originally approved.

        In March, voters rejected a 6.5-mill tax increase that would have raised $38.8 million annually.

        At the same time, they approved a 5-year, 10.9-mill levy that renewed two existing levies and will provide $65.1 million annually.

        Voters in November defeated a $24 million, 4.5-mill levy. Most of the November levy was a tax increase.

        The districts 75 school buildings need about $700 million in repairs and remodeling.


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