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Levy survey clears up facts

Many didn’t know what funds were for or that taxes would be lower

LIBERTY — A survey conducted by the committee working to pass a school levy for the Liberty Local School District showed many of the respondents did not have accurate information about the levy defeated by 200 votes in the spring that will appear again on ballots Nov. 3.

The survey takers did not seem to realize that while the 2.5-mill levy is a new, additional levy, it comes on the heels of the elimination of a more expensive tax that expires before the new levy takes effect, said Elaine Jacobs, chair of the committee working to pass the new levy that would pay for physical improvements in the district.

The 4.2-mill bond levy that expires in December was put in place 25 years ago to pay for a new high school. Because the school was built before the state was helping local schools pay for new buildings, the bond levy had to pay for the entire cost of the new high school, Jacobs said.

That bond levy brought in $925,000 last year for the district. The new levy would bring in $560,000 per year.

The owner of a $100,000 home pays $143.50 in taxes annually for the bond levy, but the homeowner’s annual bill will drop to $87.50 per year if the new, five-year, 2.5-mill levy is passed, according to information provided by Jacobs.

The money will help buy six new buses — a new bus with cameras and radios is about $100,000 and a third of the district’s fleet is more than 15 years old; a new roof for the old high school, known as LYRIC, which was repurposed in 2018 for school and community extracurricular activities; new technology like Chromebooks, printers, data server security and building security; resurfacing of the track, which hasn’t been completely resurfaced in 20 years; a new roof for the high school; window replacements; parking lot paving; and perhaps to help the district through an expected loss of funding caused by the pandemic, according to information about the levy provided by Jacobs.

The levy cannot be used to pay for salaries.

Because the new high school is 25 years old, its roof will need to be replaced in the next few years, Jacobs said, noting the life of a roof is about 30 years.

Based on the survey, many didn’t realize the additional levy won’t increase their tax bill, Jacobs said.

“Many didn’t realize this is a unique circumstance. Based on the survey results, many didn’t know what the levy was for,” she said.

Jacobs used the information from the survey to hold four public information meetings in an attempt to correct the misconceptions. According to the results, most respondents did not know their taxes will actually be lower next year, even if the levy passes.

Jacobs said until the state reforms the unconstitutional way it funds schools, the responsibility will continue to fall on taxpayers.

She encouraged lawmakers to work on a more equitable way of funding schools, because basing it on property taxes has been declared unconstitutional and means children that live in districts with lower property values do not get the same level of funding for their education as those who live in more affluent districts.

“It is unfair, and the state Legislature has had 25 years to fix it and have yet to come up with a solution, even though other states, even neighboring Pennsylvania, have found a new way to fund their schools that isn’t based on property taxes,” Jacobs said. “There are models out there, they should look to see how to make one work for Ohio. But, in the short term, we are asking voters to give the district a chance to maintain the standards, because it costs money to do so.”

rfox@tribtoday.com

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