Fuzzy math or straight talk in Monroeville Local Schools?

Cary Ashby • May 3, 2018 at 10:00 PM

MONROEVILLE — A former school board member is questioning the math behind the permanent-improvement (P.I.) replacement levy on Tuesday’s ballot for Monroeville Local Schools. The superintendent has clarified the issue in various releases from the district.

Monroeville residents are being asked to vote on a 1.8-mill replacement levy for five years to be used for permanent improvement projects.

Questioning the math

“Once again we are asked to support a replacement levy for this district. Funny how a few months can change the figure that we are voting on,” former board member Brian Watt said in a letter to the Reflector. “In a recent school newsletter sent to every voter in the district we were informed that the requested levy would only increase our taxes by $6 per $100,000 in property valuation.”

Citing a news account with feedback from district treasurer Stephanie Hanna, Wyatt said Hanna reported “the cost to a $100,000 homeowner would be $63 annually, an increase from $22 this year.”

“Flash-forward to April 2018 when a newsletter sent to the voters of the district and a letter to the editor from the OSBA states that the increase to voters would be and I quote, ‘$1.50 yearly for every $25,000 of property value. For example, it would cost $6 additional yearly on a $100,000 piece of property,’” Wyatt continued in his letter.

The former board member then laid what he called “the facts, according to Huron County Auditor Roland Tkach.

“Currently the P.I. levy based on $100,000 of property value costs voters $22.27 annually.
 The cost associated with the replacement levy is $63 per $100,000 of property value. Even Common Core math can’t make this add up,” Wyatt wrote.

“So, where does the district’s math come from? Simple, they are trying to include the savings from a bond refinancing into the equation. Think of it like this. Your family refinances your mortgage to a cheaper interest rate. Sure, you save money on your mortgage payment, but does that change your tax valuation or the costs associated with it? Of course not,” he said.

“Frankly, the choice is yours. Is $41 per year on $100,000 property valuation too much? That decision is one that each individual or family has to make on their own. The issue, in my opinion, is whether or not you trust the numbers coming from the West Street office.”

Superintendent Ralph Moore told the Reflector that the additional cost was taken into consideration with the levy.

The district’s perspective

Since 1973, Monroeville schools has had a permanent improvement levy on the ballot every five years at a rate of 1.8 mills. In 1973, that levy generated $80,000 for the district to use for permanent improvement projects such as bus purchases or any item purchased lasting beyond five years.

“State law will not allow permanent improvement funds to be used for anything else. In the year 2018, the permanent improvement levy that was first passed in 1973 still generates $80,000 and no more,” Moore said in a prepared statement.

Forty-five years later, the superintendent said “the district’s financial ability to take care of needed permanent improvements has not grown” to match additions to various facilities. Moore cited the square footage of the district building growing from from 89,935 square feet in 1973 to 151,028 square feet, an elementary-school addition “as well as the new MAC athletic complex along with the utility and maintenance costs associated with those additions.”

“It is the district’s obligation and responsibility to take care of what the public has provided us over the years,” he added.

Moore then addressed the levy.

“The amount of millage is the same as in 1973, but the replacement levy allows for the adjusted rate to be collected at current 2018 property values. If approved at current 2018 property values, the replacement levy cost to a property owner would be an additional $1.50 per year for every $25,000 of property value,” the superintendent said.

The district has formulated a five-year plan in the areas of school safety, school facilities/maintenance, kindergarten through 12th-grade academic curriculum, food service, technology and transportation.

“The five-year plan identifies specific needs, the cost and timelines of implementation in the areas mentioned,” Moore said in the district newsletter released Wednesday. “In the near future this plan will be placed on the district website for everyone to view and provide comment on. By planning effectively we can prioritize the district’s most urgent needs. The planning will ensure the district budget can support the execution of the plan.”

In October, Monroeville filed a required, five-year financial forecast with the Ohio Department of Education. Moore said it showed “a positive district fund balance of $1,232,160 on June 30.”

“The cash balance identified in the October 2017 report represents just under what it would cost to run our school district for 60 days. The auditor of the state of Ohio recommends that school districts maintain a minimum balance covering between 60 (to) 90 days of their operating budget. Currently we are at the 60-day level,” he added in the newsletter.

“A big piece of the district’s positive financial future is dependent on the passage of the permanent improvement replacement levy that will be on the May 8 election ballot. This is the same issue that was defeated in the November 2017 election. This issue is the key to providing the district with the ability to take care of needed permanent improvement expenses without having to use general fund money to do so.”

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