Bevy of levies from schools in suburbs on Nov. ballot

10/7/2013
BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Brothers Joshua, 11, left, Garren, 7, center, and Welden Hannum, 10, enjoy pizza during a kick-off event last week to support a 2.9-mill levy on the November ballot for Springfield Local Schools.
Brothers Joshua, 11, left, Garren, 7, center, and Welden Hannum, 10, enjoy pizza during a kick-off event last week to support a 2.9-mill levy on the November ballot for Springfield Local Schools.

Election Day will be especially important for the Rossford and Northwood schools districts, with both asking voters for more tax money to be used, literally, to change each district's appearance.

Officials in both Wood County school systems want to replace their aged buildings with new or renovated facilities that they say will cost less to operate and improve their students’ educational experience. Taxpayers will be asked Nov. 5 to finance multimillion-dollar plans put together, over years, with heavy community involvement.

The schools are among those Toledo-area suburban districts with levies on the ballot next month.

In Rossford, the tax request would pay for the first phase of a $76 million reconstruction and renovation project. Voters will consider adoption of a 37-year, 4.6-mill bond issue that would raise $32.2 million for the construction of two buildings to replace Indian Hills and Eagle Point elementary schools.

The new Indian Hills would house the district’s third through fifth grades, while prekindergarten through second grade would be taught at the new Eagle Point. Glenwood Elementary would be decommissioned and eventually demolished in phase two of the district’s upgrade.

Both new schools would be built at the sites of the existing elementaries after the old buildings’ demolitions. Indian Hills dates to 1970, and Eagle Point to 1929. The new tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $161 annually.

Rossford Superintendent Dan Creps said the district’s old buildings have done their jobs well, but need to be replaced or rebuilt. Starting with the elementaries, he said, is a priority and the recommendation of the citizens’ panel that developed options for the district’s master plan.

The new buildings will be safer, handicapped-accessible, and energy-efficient, and “provide learning spaces for 21st-century learning,” he said.

Northwood school officials are asking voters to adopt a combined property tax/‚Äčearned-income tax to pay for construction of a new school for students in prekindergarten through 12th grades on the district’s main Lemoyne Road campus. The southern portion of the high school, containing the gym and auditorium, would be preserved. The requested property tax is 4.9 mills; the proposed earned-income tax, 0.25 percent.

Northwood Superintendent Greg Clark described the vote as “a really important decision for our community, because we have a real, legitimate need. Our buildings are very old. They range from 50 to 75 years old.”

The new Northwood building would cost about $33 million, with the Ohio School Facilities Commission paying about a third. The owner of a $100,000 home who has an earned income of $50,000 would pay about $300 a year in additional tax, according to figures provided by the district.

Northwood, with a smaller tax base than Rossford, qualifies for more state funding. Rossford declined to use state money, calculating the higher cost of following state rules at more than the funding’s value.

Election Day ballots elsewhere in the area will contain a host of school requests for new operating income and renewals, as suburban and area districts cope with declining enrollment and higher costs. Seeking new money are the Anthony Wayne, Ottawa Hills, and Springfield schools.

Anthony Wayne officials are asking for an additional 4.9-mill continuing levy. Treasurer Kerri Johnson said the district has not asked voters for new money in 10 years, but the income is needed to offset cuts in state support and new, unfunded requirements in such areas as instruction, evaluations, and technology. The new tax would raise just under $4 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $171.50 annually, she said.

The Ottawa Hills district seeks adoption of a new, continuing 6.9-mill levy that would generate $1.05 million annually, Treasurer Brad Browne said. The new tax would cost the owner of a $200,000 home $483 per year.

Ottawa Hills’ tax base is 96 percent residential, Mr. Browne said, and “we’ve had a history pretty much like clockwork of going back to the voters every three years,” for operating funds, most recently in November, 2010, when a 7.6-mill request was approved.

In the Springfield schools, officials seek a 2.9-mill levy continuing levy that would generate about $1.86 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $100 annually, spokesman Kristina White said.

In Sandusky County’s Gibsonburg schools, the request is for a new five-year tax on earned income that would produce about $750,000 each year, Treasurer Paul Lockwood said. The district has not sought additional operating funds in more than 20 years.

Area districts with operating-levy renewals on the ballot are Woodmore, with 5.75 mills for five years, and Benton-Carroll-Salem, with 3.9 mills for five years. Benton-Carroll-Salem also seeks renewal of 1.2 mills for five years for permanent improvements.

Eastwood schools seek renewal of a 2-mill permanent improvement levy for five years; Evergreen schools, renewal of a 0.75 percent income tax for five years.

The Elmwood district requests renewal of two income taxes — 0.5 percent and 0.75 percent — for operations.