SUNBURY — The Big Walnut Local School District will have a renewal operating issue on the March 17 ballot.
The state moved up the spring primary date so the election is earlier than usual, said Superintendent Angie Hamberg at the Big Walnut Board of Education meeting Jan. 16.
According to the district, the 5.45-mill continuing levy was first approved by local residents in 2010 and was renewed in 2015. The levy represents 12% of the district’s daily operating budget, Hamberg said. Those expenses include teachers, utilities and supplies.
It was pointed out during the meeting that the renewal is not a new tax, nor is it an increase on the existing tax. Big Walnut residents are already paying this tax.
In 2017, voters also approved a bond and permanent improvement funding for the district. However, those funds can only be used on capital projects, such as the construction of a new elementary school and a new high school in Sunbury, maintaining the current buildings, and replacing school buses.
There had been discussion by the board about putting the renewal issue on last November’s ballot, but it was decided against because it would not have been the full five years. At Thursday’s 3.5-hour meeting, a motion was introduced to temporarily freeze spending and put a moratorium on hiring, but it did not receive a second, so it was not voted on.
Also discussed by the board was the possibility of cuts and reductions for the 2020-2021 school year if the March levy failed. There was concern by some that the public perceives this as a threat. Yet it was said that such measures would be necessary, if not exactly determined. In addition, it was said that the state funding formula was not adequate for the district.
Hamberg said that the percentage increase in enrollment was double that of the increase in the number of teachers in the past decade. According to the district, it operates on a tight budget, and its revenues are not keeping pace with the cost of new students.
Last year, in response to potential housing developments, the district said it has little control over enrollment other than the quality of education it provides. Rather, district growth is more dependent on the policies, plans, and legislation of local governments. By many measures, population growth is being projected all over Delaware County in the coming decades, and Sunbury will soon change from being a village to a city.
Board members said they were concerned about the potential of misinformation on the renewal levy being spread on social media. For district information about the levy, visit bwls.net or call 740-965-3010.
February 18 is the deadline for voter registration in the primary, and early voting begins Feb. 19.
In other Big Walnut news, the BOE swore in newly-elected board members Sherri Dorsch and Steve Fujii during its Jan. 9 meeting. The board will meet on the second Thursdays (at 7:30 a.m.) and third Thursdays (at 6:30 p.m.) of most months at its administrative offices, 110 Tippett Court, Sunbury.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.