Batavia board members are considering levy

Batavia Local School District Board of Education members are exploring their options for a levy on the November election ballot.

The board held a special meeting July 9 to discuss which options they would be interested in and passed resolutions to submit several options to the county auditor for certification.

“The resolutions tonight are exploratory,” Michael Enriquez, board president said. “Next Wednesday we will have to decide if we are going to move forward.”

Board members passed resolutions to explore the financial impact of a 2.5 mil, 2.75 mil and 3 mil operating levy as well as several bond levy options that would be used to construct a new building in the district.

Michael Ashmore, district treasurer, spent time discussing the district’s financial situation with a small group of residents before explaining the different levy options available.

Ashmore said they are exploring both a bond levy that would help fund a new building in the district as well as an operating levy that would help with district expenses.

He went over the revenues and expenditures in the district over the past several years and discussed the dangerously low fund balance the district has today.

“We have no cushion here,” Ashmore said about the fund balance. “Once it goes negative you can’t operate. We don’t want to get there. We want to do everything we can not to get there.”

Ashmore said the district fell short of balancing the budget this year, mainly because of lower than projected property tax revenues. He said next year they have projected a $30,000 deficit.

Ashmore explained that in addition to the cuts the district made in previous years, board members have already planned to make $1 million in cuts for the next school year.

And while they are attempting to balance the budget by doing this, Ashmore said it prevents them from improving things in the district and really just keeps them afloat.

Ashmore also explained the increase in enrollment in the district and the need for a new building.

He said Batavia and Milford are the only two schools in the county that increased enrollment in the past couple of years, and Batavia grew four times as much as Milford.

The increase in enrollment has created an overcrowding problem in the district, especially at the elementary and middle school, and board members have been discussing the need for a new building for several years.

“This time we have been deemed an exceptional needs district,” Ashmore said. “Engineers from the Ohio School Facilities Commission came down.”

Ashmore said the district was number 11 on the list to receive funding for a new building, but only if the district is able to make the local match.

“You’re funded immediately once you get your local share,” he said. “The benefit of exceptional needs is it gets us there quicker. We know right now funds are available because we were approved.”

Ashmore said board members have discussed building a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade building on the high school campus if they were able to pass a levy for a building.

The major decision for board members will be whether to ask for a bond levy for a new building or an operational levy or both.

Board members discussed the options, but did not make a decision at the July 9 meeting. They passed resolutions to explore several millage amounts for both levy options.

Once they receive financial information for the different options from the county auditor, they hope to make a decision about a levy at their next regularly scheduled board meeting at 7 p.m. July 18

“It’s tough,” Enriquez said about the situation. “If the community says ‘no’ there will be potential consequences. It’s not a threat, it’s a reality.”