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Published: Thursday, 10/11/2007

Ottawa Hills district seeking 5.5-mill levy in November

BY MIKE JONES
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

The Ottawa Hills school system will be on the November ballot asking for a 5.5-mill levy for operations, according to a decision by the board of education.

The district traditionally comes to voters every three years seeking funds to continue operations, said Cathy Heidelberg, superintendent.

The increase, she said, is needed to keep up with inflationary factors and is used for personnel expenses, materials, supplies, maintenance, and other day-to-day expenses.

She noted that state law prohibits schools from collecting more money from levies than their value at the time they are passed. Although property values may increase, the schools don't get a share of that increased valuation.

It's the primary reason why schools must keep coming back for revenue, she said.

The district also is in a situation where there is almost no commercial or industrial real estate, so nearly all of the tax support has to come from homeowners. Brad Browne, school treasurer, said state support for the school system has remained static at about $1.7 million since 2005 and no increase is anticipated in the near future.

Ottawa Hills is ranked among the top school systems in Ohio, and the superintendent said a recent survey of village residents affirmed their approval of the system's goals.

She said the district tries to keep a small student-to-teacher ratio in classes, hire experienced teachers, and offer special programs for at-risk students.

In the most recent state report card, Ottawa Hills met all 30 of the performance indicators and was rated "Excellent." The school has been named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence three times recently by the U.S. Department of Education and as a School of Distinction, by the state department of education to recognize its performance with students with disabilities.

In the 2007-2008 school year, expenditures are projected to exceed revenues by about $1.13 million, according to the system. If passed, the levy would raise slightly more than $1 million. The owner of a home valued at $250,000 would see a tax increase of about $420, if the issue passes.

Gary Wilson, president of the board of education, said he is appreciative of the understanding village residents have shown concerning the difficulties in funding the school system.

"We had an independent financial group review the situation and they agreed with us that 5.5 mills is what we need."

He said the board has always been prudent in spending but the increase is needed, "merely to keep up with increased costs in fuel, insurance, utilities, and all the other stuff we're all struggling with."



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