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Published: Thursday, 6/19/2008

Washington Local puts 3.9-mill levy on fall ballot

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Washington Local Board of Education yesterday approved putting a levy on the November ballot that would generate about $4.1 million annually.

The board voted 5-0 to ask voters for the new tax money that it said would prevent projected deficits of $3.8 million next year that would grow to $18.3 million by 2012.

"It is important we have the community support us in offering our students the very best," board member David Hunter said.

The dual purpose, 3.9-mill levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $119 year. It is termed a continuing levy because it does not expire after a set number of years.

Of the 3.9 mills, 3.5 mills would be used for general operating expenses and 0.4 mills would be used for permanent improvements, district Treasurer Jeffery Fouke said.

The district, which has an operating budget of about $90 million, covers parts of West Toledo, North Toledo, Point Place, and Washington Township and has an enrollment of about 6,700 students.

The district last put a levy before voters in 2004 - also 3.9 mills. That levy was approved. The board promised it would not ask for more funds for three years.

The district has been on a four-year cycle of levy requests beginning with a 5.9-mill levy that was approved in November, 2000 - after five tries - followed by the 3.9-mill levy in November, 2004, and now this request for the Nov. 4, 2008, ballot.

"We would rather come forward early with a small levy and our voters have consistently supported our strategy of extremely strong financial management combined with small levy requests," Superintendent Patrick Hickey said.

Because of an unexpected payment of delinquent taxes from a major taxpayer this year, there should be a modest surplus for fiscal year 2008, Mr. Fouke said.

That's after two years of deficits - $1.4 million in 2006 and $930,000 last year, he said.

The district is dealing with the same increased costs as everyone else, such as the hike in fuel prices. In 2004, the district spent $131,000 for fuel for its buses and other vehicles. That has more than doubled to $330,000.

Also since the last levy was passed, health-care costs have increased 70 percent and building repair costs have gone up 83 percent, Mr. Hickey said.

But at the same time, the district has invested $15 million in school facilities since 2004 in an effort to keep the buildings up-to-date through renovations, he said.

"We understand that we are in difficult economic times, but we also understand that as a free society we have an obligation to fund public schools and to offer an outstanding education," the superintendent said.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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