Saturday, Aug 27, 2016
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Education

Owens will do research on levy process

In response to a continued decline in state funding, Owens Community College officials have decided to study the process for implementing a tax levy as a possible source of income.

Members of the college's finance committee yesterday said Owens has no plans to seek a levy, but it needs to understand the mechanisms behind it should the college decide to seek one in the future.

Several Ohio community colleges have levies. Unlike those institutions, however, Owens has a service district of several counties, which complicates matters, officials said.

Owens' district encompasses Lucas, Wood, and Hancock counties and parts of Ottawa and Sandusky counties. It has campuses in Perrysburg Township and Findlay.

Officials need detailed answers to how the process would work before they could evaluate if a levy is a good idea, said Jack Sculfort, chairman of the board of trustees.

Prompting the question is the fact that Owens, like many colleges across the state, is trying to educate more students with less state money. State officials even have asked colleges to consider what would happen if they had to make cuts of 20 to 30 percent.

"I see two diverging roads here. Funding's going one way and enrollment's going the other," Mr. Sculfort said. "It's our job to at least plan for that, evaluate our options."

The college last officially investigated the question of a levy in 2001. Here's how a levy could be implemented, according to that inquiry:

Owens is classified as a state community college, which does not give it the authority to seek a local levy. It would have to petition the Ohio Board of Regents to change its charter and become a community college, which has that power.

While the governor appoints members to the board of trustees of state community colleges, a charter change would limit that number to three. The other six members would be named by county commissioners within the college's service district.

A majority of votes in the district would be necessary to approve a levy.

But for a college serving parts of several counties, questions remain, including which county's commissioners would appoint which trustees. State law might even need to be revised to clarify these issues, officials said.

Owens President Christa Adams said she's familiar with what it takes to pass a levy, since she is from St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Mich., which has one.

Still, she said, "Ohio has a number of uniquenesses."

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.

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