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Efforts to garner voter approval for new levy starting

MILLERSPORT – Walnut Township Schools Superintendent Randy Cotner told board members Monday night he believes the district’s latest attempt to approve an additional levy is gaining support.

“People are asking very good, insightful questions,” he said. Cotner said more than 60 people attended an Aug. 7 community information meeting. “It was the first time some people had seen the facts,” he said. Cotner said the strong turnout was “an attitude change right there.” He said he heard people say they didn’t have all the information they needed on previous levy proposals.

On the November ballot, school district voters will see an 8.8 mill levy, which is actually a combination of two. The current emergency levy, which must be renewed every five years, is 1.8 mills, which generates $258,000 per year. The intent is to add an additional 7 mills for a total of 8.8 mills, which would raise $1 million per year. The additional revenue would keep the school district solvent through 2017.

Voters have renewed the original emergency levy several times. The risk is that if voters reject the additional 7 mills, the district also loses the $258,000 from the existing levy, digging its financial hole even deeper.

Board members are struggling with deficit spending and a projected $433,270 deficit for the new fiscal year, which began July 1. That deficit grows to $1,491,599 in fiscal year 2016 and $2,673,889 in fiscal year 2017.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected an additional 6.9 mill levy on May 6.

Previously, Treasurer Kirk Grandy said the district has deficit spent for the last three years. Even if voters approve a levy to raise $1 million, cost cuts will still be necessary and the district would need to return to the ballot in a couple years. Grandy said the district is at a great disadvantage because it’s nearly 80 percent locally funded; the state only provides about 20 percent of the district’s revenue. He said Walnut Township school district voters could either approve additional levies and keep the district solvent, or reject levies and allow another district to absorb Walnut Township Schools, in which case district residents would pay even higher taxes.

Fairfield County Chief Deputy Auditor Ed Laramee said the 8.8 mills levy would raise a total of $1.258 million per year and cost district homeowners $300.13 per year per $100,000 of home valuation. This is an increase of $245 per year.

Cotner said about two dozen people attended a campaign committee meeting where two committees were created – a voter registration committee and a fundraising committee. “We were pleased with that turnout,” he said. Cotner said once the new school year is “up and running, then we’ll have a full blown campaign.” He said there would be at least two more informational meetings about the levy before the November vote.

In other district news, school board members unanimously approved the following personnel recommendations:

• To accept the resignation of Mary Lynette Engle as a lunchroom employee, effective Aug. 8.

• To accept the resignation of Teresa Underhill as high school secretary effective Aug. 11. Cotner said Underhill left the position to become a teacher.

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