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Superintendent continues to share levy information with community

Information about Issue 8 originally appeared in Oct. 30 issue of Centerville Dispatch

This information originally appeared in the Oct. 30, 2019, issue of the Centerville Dispatch.

On Tuesday, November 5, voters in our Centerville-Washington Township community will cast the final ballots on the school district's levy request, Issue 8. I appreciate this opportunity to share some information about Issue 8 and our schools with readers, and hope voters will take the time to consider the facts provided.

Centerville City Schools has not asked voters for a new levy in six years. This is the longest the district has gone without a new levy in more than four decades, because we have worked diligently to balance costs while also maintaining the high quality of education our students deserve and that our community expects.

Managing personnel costs – which is a large portion of any school district's budget – is a key component. Over the last ten years, we have continued our efforts to retain and recruit great teachers while also maintaining an average base salary increase of less than 2% (1.6375%). This applies to teachers, administrators, and all other staff. In addition, several years ago we changed to self-insured health insurance, which has saved nearly $1 million dollars per year since 2012.

In 2018-19, Centerville City Schools welcomed more than 8,300 students in preschool through 12th grade, and our enrollment for the current school year is tracking at approximately 8,400. Our Year End Enrollment numbers, reported annually to the Ohio Department of Education, show an increase every year for the last several years and an overall increase of more than 300 students since FY2015.

In addition to our growing student population and the regular inflationary costs of doing business, costs have risen for school safety needs, technology updates, special education, preschool, College Credit Plus, social and emotional wellness, and unfunded state mandates in recent years. During the 2018-19 school year, our expenses began to exceed our revenue, and we are now dipping into our reserve funds to operate. Without passage of Issue 8, cuts to teachers and programs will be necessary.

For school districts, simply keeping up with inflationary cost increases is extremely challenging due to House Bill 920 (HB920), a law passed in 1976. HB920 basically freezes a school district's collection rate on levies or voted mills. So, when home values increase, a district's voted millage is reduced and the collection rate remains the same. Except a one-time increase for new construction, school districts do not see increases in collections on their voted millage. This is the main reason most districts return to taxpayers for additional revenue every few years.

In addition to day-to-day operating costs, our school facilities – which include 1.3 million square feet of space in 15 buildings – are aging. One of our schools is 95 years old, and the majority are more than 50. Providing facilities with the type of safe and effective learning environments today's students need is a high priority. Some of the regular repair and maintenance work we do may seem routine, but it is the reason our schools have lasted through the years. However, as our buildings continue to age, there are more projects that need to be addressed than our current funding allows. This is why Issue 8 includes 1-mill dedicated to building repairs, renovations, maintenance and other permanent improvement needs.

The cost of Issue 8 is approximately $20 a month per $100,000 of property value. It is not a request our Board made without a lot of consideration, and we hope you will give consideration to these facts and additional information provided at centerville.k12.oh.us/levy before casting your vote.