When voters decide on additional and replacement levies on the Nov. 5 General Election ballot, they should remember that the Ohio Legislature passed and Gov. John Kasich signed the elimination of the 12.5-percent property rollback.
The legislation does not apply to renewal levies.
Voters who approve new money, including replacement levies, will also be approving an additional 14 percent increase. That's because mathematically, after reducing the cost of a levy by the 12. 5 percent rollback, it needs to increase by 14 percent to return to its original cost.
That's one of many variables that taxpayers must consider before deciding on levies. After conducting endorsement interviews and researching proposals on the current ballot, the Tribune Chronicle Editorial Board suggests voters consider the following information for each school replacement or additional levy.
Students and faculty spend their days in a 1918 building that includes some rooms with no windows. It's difficult to heat the classrooms and whether from the roof or from pipes, water leaks are frequent. There is little argument against the need for new classrooms to create a better teaching and learning environment.
However, the levy also includes replacing a gym built in 1974, pretty new by construction standards, and money for larger classrooms than what the state approved. The state will pay almost $8.8 million; the district will pay $9.5 million.
The 5.15-mil levy and .5-mil maintenance levy will cost about $200 per year for every $100,000 in property value. While we oppose Ohio spending without requiring more shared services or even consolidation, Bristol voters should not reject the offer.
The district is seeking a 3.9-mill additional levy for technology, textbooks and security. School officials point out teachers use books as old as a 1992 history text, no building has wi-fi, and there are no resource officers in lower grades. We are aware of one case in which a special needs student's homework was on a 1975 cassette tape.
It's unclear what else voters would get for the additional $2 million. School leaders say maybe all-day kindergarten, maybe STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math emphasis) at the high school.
It's unclear what happens if the levy fails. School officials say they could continue cutting through attrition, could increase fees for pay-to-participate and could increase instruction fees.
But the largest unknown is what the district is going to do with vocational education. On the table is transferring from Ashtabula Technical and Career Center, or A-Tech, to the Trumbull Career and Technical Center. Educationally, it appears the TCTC would provide far better opportunities for Howland students, but switching would result in an imposed 2.4-mill levy.
That would be in addition to the levy Howland is asking for voters next month. Switching to TCTC would also free up an additional $400,000 that the district spends on Ashtabula.
That's a lot of unknown for voters.
Voters should also consider that employees will have gone six years without an increase in their base salaries after the 2015-16 school year (they have received step increases) and that they now pay on average 10 percent of their health care premiums.
If Lordstown voters reject the 5.85-mill additional tax levy, school officials say the state will demand a plan for fiscal recovery. The plan cannot include passing a future tax levy - only decreases in expenses or increases in revenue that the board of education can control.
It seems logical, then, that voters should make the same demand before approving the Nov. 5 General Election levy that would cost $204.75 per year for every $100,000 in property value. Levy proponents have not presented specific plans for what happens if the levy passes or fails.
It is worth noting that school employees have not received a raise for five years (they have received step increases) and have a $1,500 deductible on their health insurance.
School administrators say they are losing money because of pay-to-participate in extra-curricular activities. That's because so many students transferred to other schools, taking their state funding with them, to avoid pay-to-participate.
What doesn't make sense, then, is that Southington will eliminate pay-to-play only if voters approve a 4.9-mill additional levy. If pay-to-participate is a net loser, the district should abolish the policy immediately.
The proposed levy would cost homeowners approximately $170 per year for every $100,000 in property value.
Voters should keep in mind that employees have done their part. The most recent contract will result in workers going six years without a raise. They also pay 5 percent to 10 percent toward their health care premiums.