Groveport Madison gears up for levy

Groveport Madison Local Schools have turned to former school board member Larry Ricchi and local businesswoman Rita Beck to co-chair the district’s operating levy campaign.

"The stars seemed to line up for us when two dedicated and able individuals volunteered to head up (the levy campaign),"  said Groveport Madison Superintendent Scott McKenzie at the Groveport Madison Board of Education’s Sept. 10 meeting.

Ricchi served on the school board for 10 years and, according to McKenzie, Ricchi has "assisted in more ballot issues than any other one person currently active in our schools."

Beck is a 1988 Groveport Madison graduate who is a business owner in the northern portion of the district. McKenzie said Beck is "a staunch supporter of our schools and of our students."

"There is probably no good time to ask people for an increase in a tax, even a very small one such as ours," Ricchi told board. "But there is a right time. It is determined by need and the need is now."

Voters will decide on the district’s three year, 8.06 mill renewal with an increase emergency operating levy on Nov. 4. The levy will appear as Issue 77 on the ballot.

About the levy

The proposed levy would generate $6.4 million a year and, if approved, would renew the existing three year, 5.46 mill emergency renewal levy, which was first passed in 1997 and would expire Dec. 31, 2009. The higher millage of the proposed renewal with an increase levy would generate nearly $1.9 million more per year than the existing levy.

If approved by the voters, the 8.06 mill levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home approximately $245 a year in property taxes, which is about a $78 increase over the existing levy.

According to Groveport Madison Treasurer Anthony Swartz, the existing levy was designed to generate $4.5 million annually for the district and originally assessed homeowners 9.5 mills, but that has decreased over the years as 5.46 mills now generate the same amount of money because, as values drop, the millage changes to generate the same amount of revenue.

Swartz provided the following projections regarding the district’s finances:

•If the voters approve the 8.06 mill levy, the district’s finances would remain on the positive side of the accounting ledger for the next three years before facing an operating loss.

•If the district just maintained its existing levy, or if voters reject the 8.06 mill levy, the district would be in the hole by about $890,840 by fiscal year 2010.

Additional revenue from the proposed 8.06 mill levy would help the district deal with the increasing costs of operations as well as help offset the approximately $768,000 the district has to pay back to the state as a result of the state’s miscalculations of Groveport Madison’s share of state school funding.

The upcoming levy campaign

Beck said the levy campaign will consist of a levy literature drop, a walk and talk in the community to inform voters about the levy, a bonfire rally on Oct. 24 prior to the Groveport vs. Gahanna varsity football game at Cruiser Stadium, yard signs, and letters to the editor.

"We want to approach this one-on-one as friends in the community talking with friends," said Beck.

The levy committee’s next meeting is Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the district offices located at 5940 Clyde Moore Drive in Groveport. The public is invited.

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