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Published: Wednesday, 7/23/2008

Voters to determine fate of Lake Local Schools operating levy

BY MEREDITH BYERS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Voters in the Lake Local Schools district will go to the polls Aug. 5 to decide whether to replace a 6.5-mill, five-year operating levy with a 5.63-mill continuing operating levy.

The levy, which will not increase or decrease taxes, would generate $1.3 million annually, the same amount the current levy has generated since it was first passed in 1992.

The revenue from the proposed levy represents 12 percent of the district's total budget.

If the continuing levy is approved, about 85 percent of the annual revenue would go toward teachers' and staff members' salaries, benefits, food service, and other personnel expenses. The remaining 15 percent would cover day-to-day operations, including utilities, maintenance items, and diesel fuel for buses.

Jeff Carpenter, the district's treasurer, said the levy will not affect the amount of taxes property owners pay because of an increase in property values.

As property values increase, the millage is decreased to compensate. The amount of tax revenue the levy generates is constant.

"Everything is based on valuation of property in a school district," said Mr. Carpenter.

"If property values stay the same, a 6.5-mill levy would always be a 6.5-mill levy. The effective rate would always be the stated rate," he said.

"By taking the 6.5 mills stated and taking it to its effective rates, the taxes it generates stay the same," he said.

Mr. Carpenter said the district did not want a tax increase at this time.

"We're on the ballot every 18 months just to renew what we've got," he said.

Mr. Carpenter said that putting a levy on the ballot in August provides a safety net for the district. If the levy were to fail, the district would get a second chance to pass the levy in November.

"We felt that going with the continuing levy would take some of the burden of taxpayers constantly going to the voting booth," Lake Superintendent Jim Witt said.

"The cost of putting a levy on is pretty expensive. If we can eliminate that every couple years, that's what we'd like to do," he added.

Debbie Hazard, deputy director of the Wood County Board of Elections, estimated that Lake's August election will cost around $7,000.

Mr. Witt, who said the district would save repeated ballot costs, is confident the levy will pass.

"We've showed our community that we're going to do what's best for kids while also being good stewards of their money.

"We've made strides academically, we've made improvements, we've implemented new programs; those results are going to show and continue to improve," he said.



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