West Carrollton and Oakwood are the only local school districts seeking increased day-to-day operating money on the Nov. 8 ballot, while five other districts are asking voters for renewals of existing levies.
The last time West Carrollton voters approved a school tax increase was 2007, meaning the district has gone longer without passing a new levy than all Montgomery County schools except Trotwood-Madison and New Lebanon. This levy is 5.5 mills, the same millage West Carrollton voters rejected in March.
On the other side is Oakwood, where voters have approved funding increases every three years — in 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013. Oakwood is asking voters for the same increase as the past two levies — 5.75 mills.
In the past two years, Dayton-area voters have approved almost all school renewal levies (41 of 42), but requests for new funding have been a toss-up, with six approved and five rejected.
Renewal school levies, which extend an existing tax rate, are on the ballot for Brookville, the Greene County Career Center, Milton-Union, Tri-County North and Twin Valley. The latter three are five-year renewals, while the first two would make existing levies permanent.
The five-year levy for West Carrollton schools would raise about $1.93 million per year and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $192.50 annually. But Superintendent Rusty Clifford breaks it down further with a slogan, saying “the cost is 53 cents per day, and together, we can make change.”
From 2010-12, West Carrollton voters shot down three straight smaller levies by 51-49 margins each time. This March, a 5.5-mill permanent levy was rejected by a 55-45 margin. This levy has the same millage, but is for five years, rather than permanent.
Clifford said a main reason for the levy need is that West Carrollton is a “capped” district, meaning it doesn’t receive as much funding as the state formula says it should. Overall district revenues have increased each of the past three years, but expenses have risen, with the annual deficit averaging over $1 million.
Clifford said if the levy passes, the district will erase busing cuts that were made this fall, will keep staffing intact and will stay off the ballot for 3-to-5 years. If the levy fails, West Carrollton will start planning to cut 20-to-25 teachers next summer, but won’t pull the trigger until seeing whether voters approve a larger levy in May.
“Four of the last seven years, everyone in this district took a zero-percent raise. We’re doing everything we can to stretch those dollars,” Clifford said. “We have been able to very clearly answer everyone’s questions, and everyone understands the urgency of passing on Nov. 8.”
Resident Dave Geuder agreed, saying he’ll support the levy because it’s needed. He said it’s not right for schools to have to cut things like busing or music, or to jack up sports fees. Outside the West Carrollton post office Tuesday, Jim Hildreth disagreed, saying he had just mailed his ballot with a “no” vote.
“They come up (on the ballot) year after year after year, and the money’s misspent as far as I’m concerned,” Hildreth said. “It’s just a revolving door that never stops. … I support the kids, but you’ve got to tighten your belt.”
On the new, harder state report card released last month, West Carrollton got a “D” in achievement, but a “B” in student progress.
The permanent 5.75-mill levy for Oakwood schools would raise about $1.62 million per year and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $201.25 annually. Oakwood voters approved the past three similar levies by at least a 13-point margin each time.
““We continue to provide the schools that our community wants,” Superintendent Kyle Ramey said. “As that evolves and changes, we evolve with that.”
Like other wealthy districts, Oakwood gets less funding from the state and is more reliant on local tax levies. Treasurer Kevin Philo said inflation causes expenses to rise, but tax levy receipts do not rise with inflation.
“People think Oakwood spends a ton of money, but no, we spend a reasonable amount,” Philo said, pointing out that Oakwood’s expenditure per pupil is lower than most of the state’s other top academic performers, and very comparable to Centerville and Kettering.
“We don’t want to be the highest, we don’t want to be the lowest, but we want to give value.”
The district assembled a committee in 2013 to study different funding models, including income tax, according to levy chairman Todd Duwel, but came back to the traditional property tax levy. Oakwood’s current forecast projects its fund balance would run out in 2019-20 without a new levy.
“We’ll be back in 2019 and 2022, until and unless Columbus changes what it’s doing, or that we can figure out a different way,” Duwel said. “But in a world of constant change, some things never change, like the value of an Oakwood education.”
Greene County Career Center: The vocational district wants to renew and make permanent a 0.75-mill levy for upgrading facilities, equipment and technology. GCCC’s web site has listed the annual cost for a $100,000 home as $22.97, but county auditor David Graham confirmed Tuesday the correct cost is $16.98.
Brookville: Voters will decide whether to renew and make permanent an 8.99-mill operating levy that brings in $1.17 million per year.
Milton-Union: The district is asking residents to renew a huge operating levy for another five years. The existing 17-mill levy raises $1.72 million annually.
Tri-County North: Voters will decide whether to renew a 2-mill facility improvement levy for another five years. The 25-year-old levy generates $132,310 per year.
Twin Valley: The Preble County district wants to renew a 0.75 percent income tax for school operations, for another five years.