The Bay Village Board of Education has voted unanimously to put a 5.9 mill operating levy on the November 8 election ballot. The request reflects careful fiscal management that stretched a 2010 levy two years beyond its original four-year projection.
Homeowners would see a tax increase of approximately $17.21 per month (about $207 annually) for each $100,000 of home valuation if the levy passes. It would generate an estimated $3.1 million in additional revenue annually for the school district.
The 5.9 mill levy is to cover increasing costs for utilities, supplies, salaries, transportation, etc. The millage level also reflects the addition of increased instructional technology support and foreign language instruction starting at the elementary school level.
“We were able to make our 2010 levy stretch to six years through conservative management practices,” said Superintendent Clint Keener. “Lead time built into any levy cycle requires we ask for an increase well before we get far into spending down our reserve fund. We are at that time now. If the levy doesn’t pass this year, we’d have to come back with a higher millage request next year to maintain the same program. If we took it even closer to the end of our reserve fund, we’d be looking at some serious reductions.”
Board president Amy Huntley said the board looked at several levels of requested millage. “We’ve kept this request as low as we can while still protecting our educational program,” she said. “We hope to make this increase last at least four years. We certainly don’t want to come back to our community sooner than that. And we won’t ask for more than we really need to run our district effectively for a reasonable amount of time.”
Board members acknowledge that it is difficult to ask taxpayers for additional dollars, but hope residents will understand that the Bay Village district already falls far below the average in spending per student for school districts in Cuyahoga County, ranking 23rd out of 31 districts in spending. It spends $1,985 less per student than the county average. Teacher salaries average 14th out of the 31 districts in the county, and administrator salaries are also about average. While Bay Village has a residential tax rate (as a percentage of market value) among the highest in the county (34th out of 80 taxing districts), it is likely because the city is more than 95 percent residential. The distribution of property taxes in Bay Village is: Schools – 57.8%; City – 16.54%; County – 15.4%; Cuyahoga Community College – 4.38%; Metro Parks – 3.01%; Library – 2.74%; Port Authority – 0.13%.
“The timing of these levy requests is important,” said Huntley. “Residents should know that we can keep the dollar amount to this level in November only because we would begin to collect the increased revenue in January. However,” she added, “if we don’t pass this request in 2016, we’d need to ask for more, possibly 8-8.5 mills in 2017, in order to maintain our current program. We’d lose an entire year of the increased collections and wouldn’t receive the additional revenue until 2018.”
Treasurer Kevin Robertson said the operating levy is expected to last the district another four years as long as funding levels from the State of Ohio remain stable. “The state funding we receive has been relatively stable in recent years, but that can always change,” he said. “We are considered by the state to be an affluent community, and we are expected to fund most of our educational needs locally. Still, we receive about $4.8 million, or around 16 percent, of our operating budget from the state each year. Any future state funding cuts would certainly cause a problem for us.”
The district is preparing detailed information about the levy that will be sent to Bay Village residents. “Our community members expect to be fully informed about how we spend our dollars and what kind of results we get for those dollars,” said Huntley. “We know there are lots of specific questions out there, and we will give ample opportunity for people to get their questions answered.” She said that a schedule of public meetings would be announced.
“Our residents have shown that when they have adequate information about how we manage the resources they provide us and how we are performing in terms of student achievement, they will support us,” said Keener. “We walk a tight line with these low levels of spending relative to other districts,” he said. “Should we fail to pass a levy this year or next, we would need to quickly reduce our budget in ways that would affect our educational program significantly. It’s a fast slide downhill when levies fail, and it’s tough to rebuild programming you’ve lost.”