Voters are being asked to pass a proposed levy increase for the Chillicothe R-II Schools.
Back in January, the Chillicothe R-II School Board voted unanimously to place an increase in the operating tax levy before the voters on the April 2 ballot.
Now they are asking voters to vote”yes” and pass the 80 cent levy increase they are seeking.
Superintendent Dr. Roger Barnes said while the language asks for an 80 cent increase per $100 dollars, citizens will really only be paying a 68 cent increase.
“Currently, there is a 12 cent tax for capital improvements, and that is part of operations budget, with successful passage of this ballot issue the 12 cents is replaced with 80 cents - so it is a net increase of 68 cents over the current operating tax,” Barnes said.
Voters approved the 12 cent tax levy in 1998.
“With the rising cost of goods and services, District balances continue to be depleted 2-3 percent per year,” Barnes said noting that while prices for things keep rising, more often than not state funding continues to decrease. “It is not so much about where the money is going, but rather where is is not coming from.”
The extra funds generated, should the increase pass, will go to help with students services, extracirruclar activities, facility upgrades, food services and personnel. Barnes also noted the state is not fully funding its share of student transportation and the extra funds generated from the levy increase would go to fill in those gaps as well.
“In the eight years that I have been here the state has not had to pay us all of the allowable costs, that they are supposed to be paying us for,” Barnes said. “The state owes us $358,000 for transportation, and we only get $119,000.”
During Barnes tenure with Chillicothe R-II District the state has underfunded the district $1.737 million.
“This shortfall has come out of district reserve fund balances,” he said.
The funds generated, should the levy increase pass, would go to: day-to-day operational costs
student safety and security improvements, retain school resource officer positions, capital improvements and additional bus routes to the current student transportation system; continue expansion, replacement and repair of technology; expand course offerings at Grand River Technical School to include pre-engineering; welding (pipe welding) and computer science;
develop a competitive salary schedule for certified, non-certified staff, including substitute teaching staff and build district reserve balances.
“We want to make sure we stay on the forefront of technology,” Barnes said. “We do receive quite a few technology-based grants,. But we still have to come up with matching funds for many of those.”
He also noted a few capital improvements throughout the district would include new sidewalks at the middle school and Field Elementary School.
“We have teachers that tell us when it rains the sidewalks around Field Elementary School flood, making it pretty hard to get to and from the teachers parking lots,” Barnes said. In the last 10 years the district has spent $1.8 million on capital projects.
Ensuring teacher pay is competitive not only means an increase in the 68 percent of the budget that already is dedicated to salary, but will ensure quality, dedicated teachers remain in eh district.
Barnes said that a teacher with bachelor’s degree and no experience makes $33,873 with Chillicothe R-II Schools; that same teacher would be paid $36,027 at Carrollton schools. A teacher with no experience and a master’s degree would be paid $36,959 in Chillicothe; and $43,289 in Carrollton.
Security is an ever-growing concern in schools across the country, and Chillicothe is no different. Barnes noted that there are currently a need for at least six more cameras at Field Elementary School and even more at Dewey Elementary School.
If passed the new 80 cent levy will replace the 12 cent levy, making the actual increase only 68 cents, per $100.
If passed, the taxes owed the school district on a home valued at $100,000 would be $129.20 or $10.76 month; a home with an assessed value of $150,000 would owe $193.80 annually or $16.15 a month.
Barnes noted that it is important to keep in kind, when compared to other area school, even with the proposed increase, Chillicothe schools assessed valuation per $1200 is still less than neighboring districts.
Currently Chillicothe R-II assessed value per $100 is a $3.75 operating levy, with the passage of the proposed levy, it will go to $4.43. Currently, the operating levy for other area schools, is as follows: Breckenridge $4.59; Brookfield $4.42; Carrollton $4.87; Meadville $3.76; Richmond $4.51; Southwest Livingston County R-1 $4.45; and Livingston County R-III (Chula) $4.66.
The new total Operating Levy will become $4.43 per $100 Assessed Valuation.
Should the proposed tax levy not pass, then Barnes said cuts would have to be made.
“We will work with our reserve in the short-term, but eventually cuts will be necessary. Unfortunately the place where the most capital can be gained is in personnel as personnel makes up about 68 percent of the budget expense,” he said. “Loss of personnel will affect everything from student services and offerings to class size in terms of the number of students per teacher.”
Continue to read the Constitution-Tribune for more election coverage. Election results will be placed online Tuesday night at www.chillicothenews.com as soon as results are released.