Saturday, November 29, 2003

Ross to ask voters for two school levies

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

ROSS TOWNSHIP - Deficit spending in the Ross Local Schools is on the horizon, educators say.

And that's why they are asking voters to approve a 3-mill permanent improvement levy and a 1-mill operating levy when they go to the polls in March.

"When we last passed an operating levy in 1996, we said it would last through 2003,'' said Superintendent David McWilliams. "We've managed to extend that into 2004.''

He blamed the lack of growth in the funding system and increased costs of operations for the district's need for additional dollars.

Part of the permanent improvement levy is needed to meet the district's obligation through the Ohio School Facilities Commission project that is helping to pay for a new high school and classroom additions. Under the law, the district must set aside at least one-half mill to maintain projects once they are finished.

Ohio law also requires districts to spend about 3 percent of their budget - in Ross' case, about $300,000 - annually on maintenance. Those dollars now come from the general fund, which is used for day-to-day operations.

Having a separate permanent improvement fund for maintenance would free the general fund for other uses, McWilliams said.

Each mill brings about $262,000 annually to the district. McWilliams said the school board is asking that both issues be continuing.

Next year the district will begin using its reserves to balance its $13 million budget. A deficit is expected sometime in the 2006-07 school year.

"We're struggling and have to make some adjustments (in spending)," McWilliams said. "We continue to try to be as efficient as we can. We're only doing what we need to keep us moving forward.''

The board will take the final vote to put the issues on the ballot at a Dec. 15 meeting. It is estimated the issues would increase taxes about $122 annually on a $100,000 home.

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