Thursday, February 08, 2001

Fund aims to preserve school aid

Hamilton district moves to set up separate kitty

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON — Moving 3 mills of property tax into a permanent improvement fund will prevent Hamilton Schools from losing $1.5 million annually in state aid by 2006, but will accelerate a tax increase by three years.

        The action by the Hamilton Board of Education also provides the district a steady revenue source to use for building repairs or to pay for big-ticket items with life expectancies of five years or longer, educators say.

        “Under school finance law, the state will continue to decrease its aid once millage reaches a certain level,” said Robert Hancock, treasurer of the Hamilton Schools.

        “Moving the mills to a permanent improvement fund prevents the reduction,” he said.

        But by doing so, taxes on a home with a market value of $100,000 will increase about $70 annually beginning in 2003 after the 2002 reappraisal, instead of increasing by $61 annually in 2006, after a 2005 appraisal, Mr. Hancock said.

        Shifting the mills should also allow the district to stay off the ballot longer because it will have a dedicated fund for improvements instead of dipping into the general fund.

        Once an operating levy is needed, the school board can ask for fewer mills, Mr. Hancock said.

        “The real decision was to do nothing and have taxes increase in 2006 or be proactive and move the millage now, which causes a increase in 2003,” Mr. Hancock said.

        “If we did not do this, over the next four to six years we'd have $1.5 million annually less from the state,” said Larry Bowling, president of the Hamilton Board of Education. “The net effect is upgrading our facilities and giving us money for emergency needs or to buy things with a life expectancy of five years or more.”


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