The Reynoldsburg School Board has announced it will place an operating levy on the May ballot.
If voters approve the issue, the levy would collect a millage of 6.9 the first year, then increase annually by 1 mil until it reaches a permanent collection level of 9.9 mil a year, Superintendent Steve Dackin said.
Before a standing-room-only crowd Jan. 26, the board approved the first step in a two-step process to place a levy on the ballot by approving a "resolution of necessity."
After the county auditors review the resolution and assign a value for the millage, the issue will return to the school board to approve a "resolution of intention."
Upon approval of the second resolution, the district will submit the levy request to the boards of elections for each of Reynoldsburg’s three counties – Fairfield, Franklin and Licking.
Voters rejected a 15.6-mil levy attempt in May 2009 and a 9.9-mil attempt last November.
Had it passed, the 9.9-mil levy would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $300 a year in property taxes.
The district already cut $17 million from its budget with another $3 million to be cut within the next fiscal year, Dackin said.
With an original budget of $54 million, more than 40 percent of the funds will have been cut, Dackin said.
Among the cuts already made were elementary art, music and gym, and most bus routes.
In addition, athletes must pay $500 per sport to play.
"The bottom line is that significant funds are needed or (further) cuts will be detrimental to the educational core," Dackin said. "The future of the schools and the community are at stake."
Board member Elaine Tornero cast the lone vote opposed to the levy.
Tornero said the district should not ask taxpayers for more money during a poor economy that could grow worse.
"Perhaps we haven’t seen it as bad as it can get," Tornero said. "Voters are still in the same predicament they were six months ago, if not worse."
The district risks harming the city by increasing taxes and thus forcing residents to leave, Tornero said.
While Tornero said she recognizes the district needs money, she suggested administrators lower more expenses instead of raising taxes.
Tornero said the district should encourage experienced teachers to retire so they may be replaced with recent college graduates who would earn smaller salaries.
Tornero’s plan equates to age discrimination, resident David Hedrick said.
Hedrick also disagreed with Tornero’s assertion that higher taxes would force residents to leave the city.
"The only reason for young people to come to Reynoldsburg is the good school district," Hedrick said.
Hedrick argued that Tornero’s anti-tax position equated to hospice care for the city.
"Hospice care still ends in certain death for the community," Hedrick said.
Hedrick said he would work to death to save the schools.
"We will take back the community and we will, we will pass a levy on May 3," Hedrick said.
Reynoldsburg High School freshman Jordan Reed invited the board to visit his school to experience his classmates’ dedication firsthand.
"Sit in our classrooms and see that the students deserve it," Reed said.
Many parents spoke that without creative arts and gym, their children no longer enjoy school.
"To come home and have kids cry because things have been cut," parent Mike Schultz said. "The schools are part of the community and people aren’t going to want to come."
Tornero said children and education are important to the people in her camp as well.
The problem is that Reynoldsburg already has taxes higher than the other suburbs because property owners must pay for the bond that funded the new high school, she said.
As a parent who homeschooled her children, Tornero said she understands the importance of learning from the prospective of a teacher.
"I am very interested in educating kids, and for the schools to think outside the box," Tornero said.
Rhonda Eberst, representing the support staff and teachers, told the board that the district employees were behind the levy.
On Jan. 19, the two unions that represent the district workers agreed to pay freezes.
Eberst said that by accepting pay freezes in a poor economy, the employees are telling the community that "we get it."
Nearly 100 percent of the workers have already contributed personal donations to the new levy campaign, Eberst said.