Sunday, October 22, 2000
Levy grade B
LEVY REQUEST: A 6.5-mill continuing operating levy to raise $2.8 million a year. It will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $199 a year.
OTHER LEVIES: This is the third try for a tax levy in the past year. An income tax and bond issue failed last November; a lower property tax operating levy and companion bond issue failed in March. Voters last renewed a tax increase from 1988.
IF LEVY PASSES: Some 85 percent of the money would fund a one-time hike in teacher salaries averaging 4.5 percent and provide annual 3 percent raises the next few years. The salaries would be raised closer to the county averages for teacher pay. The rest of the money would go to building improvements, mandated curriculum and instruction, plus supplies. It would reinstate $600,000 in cuts made this spring and pay for current education programs the next few years.
IF LEVY FAILS: Many cuts would be made to offset a $3 million deficit by 2003.
Our recommendation: This is a tough place to pass a school levy. Voters have raised school operating taxes only four times in 30 years, and only once in the past 12. They have the lowest school tax rate in Butler County, The state of Ohio provides more than half the budget, via a patchworked reimbursement for the tax-abated Miami University in Oxford. This has helped carry the district financially for several years, but it is no permanent guarantee.
Voters have twice turned down requests for a new high school, renovations, new programs and teacher raises. Those plans are sacked or shelved and only teacher raises and a few basics are part of the Nov. 7 levy. Talawanda's teacher salaries lag up to $7,000 behind some nearby districts.
With rates long in Ohio's bottom third, taxpayers here have had a bargain. But Talawanda schools have some catching up to do. This is a reasonable, no-frills levy intended to hire and keep good teachers to deliver the education the community counts on. It's a prudent investment in property values, too. We recommend a yes vote.