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Norwalk schools weigh options for next levy

Cary Ashby • May 1, 2018 at 9:00 PM

Norwalk City Schools is weighing its options for what kind of levy to present to voters next.

The district has an emergency operations levy that generates about $1.54 million annually. The final second-half collection is in August 2019.

The levy, which passed in early May 2014, costs the owner of a $100,000 home $173.25 each year. It costs a homestead taxpayer $129.93 annually. 

Treasurer Joyce Dupont provided information to a group of about 25 residents during an hour-long special session of the school board Monday.

Dupont presented the following levy options for the November ballot:

• Levy expires paired with increased income tax

• Renew the levy in its current form

• Levy is renewed as current with an increased amount

• Substitute levy

If the levy were renewed as current, Dupont said it would be possible for five or 10 years only and if there is no increase in state funding, an additional levy would be necessary within five years. 

The treasurer, who expressed her preference for a substitute levy, said there would be “no increase now or in the future” and additional revenue comes from new construction only.

Duane Moore, a retired Norwalk teacher who is in favor of an earned income levy, said a substitute levy is the equivalent of being on a “wish list” since it’s unknown just how much revenue new construction would bring in from year to year. He also said he believes an earned income levy would bring in more money than a substitute.

Dupont shared a graph that showed the value of new construction and the new tax revenue between 2011 and 2017. The highest construction value was slightly more than $3.1 million in 2011, when the new tax revenue was about $15,430. The lowest construction value was about $1.3 million in 2016, when the revenue was nearly $6,442.

Board president Lisa Wick had requested election results of district levies since 1980. She said in that time, 14 of 31 passed, which made it about a 45-percent success rate, and noted she doesn’t see that being representative of the community being involved in the district, much less the future of its students.

“Our students and children belong to everyone in the community,” Wick added.

Board member John Lendrum said he would be interested to know which of the 14 successful levies since 1980 were for a specific project vs. overall district needs and assumed that most of them were for specifics.

A 3.35-mill, 28-year bond passed in 1998 for the construction of Norwalk High School. Dupont said the final payment will be in 2025. 

Scott Ford, a retired Norwalk teacher, said the disadvantage of an earned income levy is it’s being presented by retired people who don’t have to pay into it.  

No matter what option the board finally goes with, Ford stressed to the board members “you have to be united on this” — meaning a unanimous vote — because there will be people who will vote against a levy since not everyone on the board was in favor of it.

No decisions were made Monday night.

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