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Levy approval critical to district’s independence

MILLERSPORT– Walnut Township Schools Superintendent Randy Cotner said Monday night, during a public information meeting, the district has a long-term plan to stay off the ballot for a while, but first it has to get past November.

Issue 3, as it will appear on the ballot, is an 8.8 mill levy, which combines an existing 1.8 mill emergency levy up for renewal and an additional 7 mill levy. The emergency levy brings in $258,000 a year. The combined levy would generate $1 million per year which would keep the school district solvent through 2018.

The 8.8 mill levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $308 per year, which is a net increase of $245 per year.

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.

If the levy fails, Treasurer Kirk Grandy said his five-year forecast shows a projected deficit of $174,032 for fiscal year 2015; a deficit of $1,290,398 for FY 2016; $2,651,468 for FY 2017; and $4,314,599 for FY 2018.

If voters approve the levy, Grandy said the forecast is quite different. He projected the district would be $454,968 in the clear for FY 2015; $596,602 for FY 2016; $618,532 for FY 2017; and $463,401 for FY 2018.

“ The world of school financing is a crazy, crazy world,” Cotner said, adding that the district has had no voter approved increase in real estate taxes for operating funds since 1994.

Cotner said the Walnut Township district is ranked the 42nd wealthiest district in the state, meaning the state provides only about 20 percent of its annual budget. “We have to come up with most of it on our own,” he said. Cotner said despite the weath designation, more than half of the district’s students are on a free or reduced price lunch program. “Yet, we’re still considered a wealth district,” he said.

Cotner said, contrary to rumor, Walnut Township Schools will not shut down if the levy fails. He’s concerned some voters believe if the levy fails, the school district will shut down and they’ll no longer be responsible for school taxes. “People think they don’t have to pay school taxes if the school is not in town,” he said. “This is wrong.”

Property owners and residents would still have to pay taxes to whichever district would absorb Walnut Township, and would likely have to pay an even higher amount. “Please give us your support,” Cotner said.

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