By Sue Kiesewetter
MIDDLETOWN - Asking voters to renew a three-year operating levy on the March 2 ballot is the first piece of a financial puzzle educators in the Middletown Schools are piecing together.
Even if the $4 million emergency levy renewal is approved, the district would face a $1.7 million deficit by June 2006, said Edmund Pokora, district treasurer.
"This is the first step we want to take to maintain our current funding," Pokora said.
The levy was first approved at 5.72 mills in 1995. It was renewed in 1998 and 2001 at lower millages. This week the board of education adopted a resolution of need, asking the Butler County auditor to set the necessary millage. Pokora estimated it would renew at 3.8 mills. The final vote to put the levy back on the ballot is set for Monday.
If the levy is approved, taxes will remain the same for the next three years - about $116 annually on a $100,000 house. If the renewal fails, collections would stop in December 2004.
Along with asking voters to renew the levy, Superintendent Steve Price is working with his administrative team to put together a financial plan for the district.
"We're three years out from the split with Monroe; we've closed two elementary schools,'' Pokora said. "We need to take a good hard look at what we're doing."
Under scrutiny will be staffing levels in light of a shrinking student enrollment, technology and transportation.
Meanwhile, board members in neighboring Franklin Schools voted this week to put two ballot issues on the March primary.
The first, a 7.43-mill combination issue, includes 5.7 mills for day-to-day operations and a 1.73-mill bond issue that would add classrooms at seven schools.
The levy portion would bring about $2.3 million annually to district coffers.
The second ballot issue is a .39-mill bond issue that would provide $2.45 million for improvements at the stadium and funds to build a multi-purpose room.
The combination issue would add $228 annually to the tax bill of a $100,000 house, and the bond issue would add $12 to that same tax bill.
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