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Published: Friday, 1/27/2006

Board puts school levy on ballot in Wauseon

WAUSEON - Voters in Wauseon Exempted Village School District will be asked in May to renew a five-year emergency operating levy that collects $835,000 a year and they might be asked for a bond issue to build a middle school as soon as November.

The school board yesterday voted 4-0 to take the final step to put the levy, which would keep taxes near their current level, on the ballot. Board member Larry Fruth was absent.

The levy will be listed on the ballot at 4.29 mills, down from 4.8 mills when it was last renewed in May, 2001. That is because the total value of property in the school district has increased, according to the county auditor's last evaluation. But the district's collections from the levy will stay the same.

So a renewed levy would cost property owners slightly less than they have been paying. For the owner of a $100,000, owner-occupied home, renewing the levy would cost about $131 a year. Such a homeowner has been paying $147 a year.

The levy is part of the $997 a year in school district taxes collected on such a home. That would drop to $982 if the levy is renewed because of the auditor's higher valuation of property.

The total annual real estate tax bill for such a homeowner in the school district now ranges from a low of $1,498 in Dover Township to a high of $1,603 in Clinton Township. Those figures likewise would drop by about $15 a year if the levy would be renewed. If the levy would be denied, those figures would drop by $147.

The levy, which accounts for about 6 percent of the district's total general fund revenues, was first approved in 1991. The last vote to renew it in 2001 was overwhelming with 728 yes to 319 no.

The school board yesterday also agreed to pay the architectural firm Fanning & Howey of Celina, Ohio, up to $15,000 this year for work leading up to a bond issue request.

Whether the school board asks for a bond issue hinges largely on whether the Ohio School Facilities Commission puts the district on a list that it will assist with funds. Wauseon Superintendent Marc Robinson has said state leaders have told him the district has a "better than 50-50 chance" of getting on such a list this spring.

If that would happen, the school board might ask voters for a bond issue as soon as November. The district has a proposal to renovate Leggett Street Primary School and Wauseon High School and construct a new building for third through eighth grades - abandoning its Elm Street and Burr Road schools - at a cost of $36.5 million. The state facilities commission would be expected to pay about two-thirds of that.

To put together that proposal, formed from numerous community meetings, the district paid its architectural firm $15,000 last year.

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