Tuesday, November 06, 2001

City schools' levies meet budget needs




By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Public Schools officials say they think they'll be able to keep their promise: The 6-mill operating levy passed in November 2000 will keep the district in the black through 2005.

        After plotting expenditures and revenues for the next five years, CPS' money handlers estimate the district will have to ask for more money no later than fiscal year 2005 so they won't be in the red.

        The levy projection was outlined Monday in the district's five-year financial forecast, which every Ohio school district must up date annually.

        “We said we'd make it last four years and that's what we expect to do,” Board of Education member Lynn Marmer said of the 6-mill operating levy, which generates $35.8 million a year.

        Money from operating levies is used for general operation of a district, such as class-size reduction, maintenance, textbooks and staffing costs.

        The district needs to ask for levies on a periodic basis because about 55 percent of revenues come from property taxes, school officials said.

        With any voter-approved levy, the amount collected does not increase over time, so it doesn't benefit from inflation. The levy passed in November 2000 generates the same amount every year. As property values rise, the actual millage is decreased so levies do not bring in more than voters approved.

        Treasurer Michael Geoghegan said he doesn't want taxpayers to confuse a new operating levy that will be needed by 2005 with the emergency levy that will be up for renewal in 2005. Voters passed a five-year, 10.9-mill emergency levy in March 2000 that renewed two existing levies and provides $65.1 million annually.

        Ms. Marmer said school offi cials will have to carefully plan when to ask for levies to support the 42,000-student district. The district's 2001-02 budget is about $427 million.

        “We don't want to be in a position of asking the voters for levies back to back,” she said.

        District officials also are considering a bond issue in the next few years to renovate or replace all of the district's 76 school buildings. The cost of the project has been estimated at up to $900 million. The state says it will pay 23 percent if the district can raise the rest.

       



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