Batavia Local School District will run a 7.26 mill levy in November

Batavia Local School District Board of Education members voted to place a 7.26 mill levy on the November election ballot at their July 30 special meeting.

The decision came after months of discussion, and the combined bond issue and operating levy would enable the district to build a new school and maintain services without making additional cuts.

“I think now the planning process begins,” Michael Enriquez, board president, said after the vote. “Hopefully a process to educate the community on what our needs are.”

The 7.26 mill levy is broken down into a 4.51 mill bond issue for a new building and a 2.75 mill operating levy.

Board members wanted to pursue the bond issue for a new building not only because the district is facing overcrowding, especially at the elementary school, but also because they will receive funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission to help pay for a new school.

“The state is kicking in 49 percent of the total estimated cost,” Enriquez said.

He said the district has also been deemed an “exceptional needs” district, which means money would be more readily available.

“If we pass a levy, it would speed the process up by about a year,” Enriquez said. “We need to take advantage of these funds now.”

Board members previously discussed that an operating levy would also be necessary to maintain services because of the financial state of the district.

Treasurer Michael Ashmore presented board members with numbers at a July 9 special meeting and discussed deficits that the district faces in the near future.

After falling slightly short of balancing the budget last school year, Ashmore said the district has already planned to save $1 million this coming school year by cutting costs on services, supplies and more and also increasing revenue.

But Ashmore said as early as the 2013-2014 school year, the district will be facing a deficit again in addition to a dwindling fund balance.

“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.”

Board members began discussing options for both a building and operating levy at the July 9 meeting and sent several options to the county auditor.

They reviewed and discussed the options for a levy as well as the analysis of millage costs for home owners at the July 30 special meeting.

The options included a 6.61 mill levy for 37 years, a 6.86 mill levy for 37 years, a 7.01 mill levy for 28 years and a 7.26 mill levy for 28 years.

Enriquez said the millage amount for 28 years is slightly higher, but the interest savings for 28 years instead of 37 years was an estimated $4 million.

Enriquez asked for feedback from each board member on which option they were leaning toward and why.

“I am not in agreement with 37 years at all,” Karen Royer, board member, said. “I think it is wrong to charge tax payers $4 million extra.”

Chris Huser, board member, said he would prefer the 7.26 mill levy for 28 years, and he said even that amount is only maintaining the services the services in the district.

“This is a list of not wants, this is a list of needs,” Huser said during the meeting. “There is a huge difference.”

Karen Royer also said she would prefer the 7.26 mill levy. Mark Ewing and Scott Runck both said they would prefer 7.01 mill levy and Enriquez broke the tie.

“I am going with 7.26,” Enriquez said.

The millage analysis from the county auditor estimated the cost of a 7.26 mill levy to be $18.53 per month for a property valued at $100,000.

Board members proceeded to vote on placing 7.26 mill levy on the November 2012 election ballot and it passed by a unanimous vote.

“Our job becomes selling the message,” Enriquez said.