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Published: Wednesday, 7/10/2002

Oregon schools will seek replacement of 2-mill levy

Renew or replace? Such was the choice the Oregon Board of Education pondered last night.

In the end, board members decided they would ask voters in November to replace the district's 2-mill permanent improvement levy expiring at the end of next year with a millage of the same size.

Officials say they need the money for a laundry list of important building improvement projects.

At next month's meeting the board will make another choice: whether the levy should be permanent or extend for five years.

The permanent improvement levy was adopted so long ago, it predates all current school officials' terms in office. Nobody could say how old it was. Because of state rollbacks, it generates only half of the $1.23 million a replacement levy would produce annually.

The replacement would increase property taxes on a $100,000 home by about $55 annually. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of a property's assessed valuation.

The improvement projects range from black-topping parking lots to providing municipal water service to Jerusalem Elementary, which has been without drinkable water for more than 18 months.

The school's wells are contaminated with bacteria, and the district has been paying upward of $2,000 a month for the delivery of bottled water.

Items on the district's list include: a sewer tap-in for Clay High School, bus purchases, technology upgrades, renovations to Eisenhower and Fassett middle schools, painting the stadium and the interiors of buildings, replacing the air conditioning in offices, and refurbishing the tennis courts at Clay, Eisenhower, and Fassett.

Board member Ray Walendzak said a five-year levy would impose discipline on school officials, who would have to return to the voters to get the tax extended.

But the board is anticipating a request for additional operating millage next year and, in 2004, may go to the voters for a bond levy to pay for facilities.

Add the renewal of the five-year levy to these, and tax levies could be “bunching up” in the district in coming years, Superintendent Alberta Ellis noted.

In other action, the board hired the Ohio School Boards Association at a cost of $6,500 to conduct a search for Dr. Ellis' replacement. Dr. Ellis' resignation takes effect Jan. 17.

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