Delaware school officials say that a proposed March tax levy will not increase taxes for property owners but will allow the district to collect revenue on new growth in the district.
The board approved placing a substitute tax levy on the March 2016 ballot at its meeting Sept. 8, rather than seek a renewal of a five-year emergency tax levy that will expire at the end of 2016.
“The substitute levy would replace an emergency levy that currently brings in $6 million per year,” said Superintendent Paul Craft. “The rate at which the current levy is collected, currently around 8.3 mills, will not change going forward.
“The substitute levy allows for incremental growth over the life of the levy based on property valuation. A renewal — which is set at a fixed amount — does not allow the district to capture that growth.”
School officials emphasized that the levy would not increase taxes for property owners.
“For current property owners, the rate at which it is collected will remain the same,” Craft said. “They will see no change in tax bills due to this levy.”
Craft said the substitute levy is similar to a $4.9 million substitute levy passed by Big Walnut Local Schools in November 2014 and would set the $6 million as the floor for the levy.
“The new levy would, in its first year, be levied in an amount equal to the aggregate proceeds derived from the substituted levies — $6 million in this case,” said Melissa Lee, treasurer for Delaware City Schools. “In subsequent years, the new levy would be levied at a rate equal to the dollar proceeds from the year prior, plus that same tax rate is applied to the value of any new construction during that year.”
“With the continued homestead and rollback exemptions in place, a homeowner with a $100,000 home would continue to pay just under $260 annually,” Lee said.
Craft said the district has grown by 600 students since the 2011 levy was passed by voters.
School officials said substitute levies are ideal for growing communities like Delaware because they keep the taxes base stable for current residents but allow a school district to capitalize on new growth in a community.
“A substitute levy was established by Ohio legislators in 2008 to provide school districts with levy options that would enable schools to capitalize on community growth in times of increasing development,” Craft said. “They were tailor-made for districts like ours that are experiencing growth.”
Craft said the funds from the original 2011 tax levy are used for instructional spending, building operations, administrative expenses and staff support.
“Of the spending in those categories, 81.8 percent goes to salaries and benefits and 19.2 percent to other expenses — including fuel for buses, natural gas to heat the buildings, electricity, paper, supplies, and more,” Craft said. “Any cuts associated with a levy failure would come down to the elimination of positions.”
Craft said the district made a promise in 2011 that if the levy passed they would stay off the ballot for at least three years.
Craft said there are still a few minor steps before the levy is officially on the March ballot but said the board would be completing them in time for the filing deadline in December.
The board’s vote to seek the levy was unanimous.