2013-03-23 / News

Lakewood planning blitz on levy issue

By Scott Rawdon

HEBRON – A reduction in millage (tax rate) doesn’t ensure passage of Lakewood’s May levy. School board members and administrators agreed at the March 13 board meeting to conduct an aggressive campaign.

“I don’t think there are any guarantees out there in today’s economy,” said Lakewood Superintendent Jay Gault. “Common sense would tell you that you don’t need a big blitz, but it’s still important to be sure everyone is educated on the levy.”

Lakewood’s 5.24 mill, fiveyear emergency renewal levy is set for the May 7 ballot. “Property values in the district have gone up since the 2008 levy renewal. Since emergency levies are for fixed dollar amounts, the millage needed to produce the same fixed dollar amount is less,” said Lakewood Treasurer Glenna Plaisted previously. The bottom line is, “The taxpayers will be paying less.”

Plaisted explained the full amount of the levy renewal is $2,353,259 but the taxpayers would be paying $2,058,646. The difference, she said, is a $294,613 reimbursement from the state. “If the school district continues to renew this emergency levy the state will continue to pay the tangible personal property reimbursement amount attached to this levy,” said Plaisted. “If the district would not pass this renewal and have to go back for new monies, then the district would not receive this reimbursement from the state.”

Plaisted said voters last renewed the levy on March 4, 2008, at 5.8 mills. A renewal at 5.24 mills would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $160.48 per year, which is $17.15 less than in 2008.

“It’s almost kind of hard to believe,” said Gault, hopeful that people who regularly vote against levies will stop to see how this one is different.

“We still have to get the word out,” said board member Bill Gulick. He said that even though it’s a reduction in millage, the renewal levy is very important to the district’s operation. “We’re doing some positive things and it’s important that we maintain them,” said Gulick.

Gulick said the district is distributing fliers, advertising in local media, and using basic word of mouth to explain the levy and promote it. “We’re going to have to really talk,” he said. “There are a lot of people willing to vote no for any levy.”

In other district news:

• Gault hopes he and Plaisted will present a solar power purchase agreement, or PPA, to the board at its April meeting. Solar PPA providers install and maintain solar facilities on the customer’s property, paying an agreed upon rate for the power generated by the solar panels. rooftops or properties.

Last month, board members agreed to begin working with Solar Planet Company on a PPA to purchase roughly 60 percent of the district’s power needs from a Solar Planet-installed solar array.

The agreement revived plans to use the projected savings from the solar project to repay a loan to finance replacement of old and inefficient windows in the middle school. House Bill 264 has allowed districts since 1985 to borrow money without voter approval to make energy improvements provided the projects generate enough energy savings to repay the loans.

In April 2012, board members unanimously authorized Superintendent Jay Gault to enter into a 20-year power purchase agreement with Dublin based Tipping Point Renewable Energy. Though the solar project didn’t require a cash investment from the district, it would cover six-seven acres of district property behind the intermediate school and south of the high school student parking lot.

The project’s economics were based on federal tax credits for high-income investors and renewable energy mandates. Tipping Point was unable to secure enough investors to fund the project and backed out of their contract proposal. When the district secured an attractive electricity price on the open market, it appeared that solar power would be on hold indefinitely.

The district’s energy consultant, Mark Taylor with SABO Limbach Energy Service, said Columbus based Solar Planet can pick up the project where Tipping Point dropped it. Taylor said Solar Planet has sufficient investors and the solar panels are ready to install. Gault added that open market electricity prices are now expected to increase significantly. He said the prediction is that within three years, the open market price will be more than seven cents per kilowatt-hour. The dis- trict currently pays 4.565 cents per kilowatt-hour through June. The Village of Hebron agreed Feb. 13 to a 15-month open market contract with AEP Energy at 4.9 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Gault estimates the district would save roughly $1 million

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