Columbiana frets about potential effect on levy vote

COLUMBIANA – A provision included in the new two-year state budget may negatively affect a bond issue being sought by the Columbiana School District this fall.

The provision eliminates the 12.5 percent of automatic reduction on all new property levies that is currently being paid by the state.

District Treasurer Lori Posey said the provision will mean a slightly more than 14 percent increase to taxpayers on the bond issue already approved for the Nov. 5 election ballot.

The bond failed the May 7 election by 131 votes. At that time taxpayers were looking at an increase of $18.83 on a $50,000 home and $37.67 a year on a $100,000 home.

The elimination of the rollback will mean the owner of a $100,000 home will pay $43.04 a year on the bond issue, Superintendent Don Mook said.

The district is seeking the 1.23-mill bond for a new roof and refurbishments at South Side Middle School on Columbiana-Waterford Road. If passed, it will generate $4 million over 29 years.

Mook said the provision “hurts all school districts,” and pointed out that, like Columbiana, 24 other districts had also approved tax levies for the November ballot before the state budget legislation went through.

“It is a critical change,” he said of the provision that will require property owners to pay 100 percent of the bill for tax levies.

Posey has already begun contacting state officials requesting an exception to the provision.

In an email to state Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman), she said, “I understand that this is part of a larger tax reform package and I understand the need for it, however, it seems unfair that this provision was added and passed after the board had already taken action.”

She urged the senator to seek an emergency clause to delay the effective date of the provision to Jan. 1 of next year.

She also said in the email that if delaying the provision is not possible the state should seek something keeping school districts from being affected that had already decided to put a tax levy before voters prior to the budget’s passing.

Schiavoni voted against the state budget and, like other Democrats at the state level, has said it benefits the wealthy while leaving the middle class behind.

A phone call to Schiavoni’s office last week has not been returned, and Mook said Tuesday the district hasn’t heard any feedback regarding their request at this point.

Schiavoni has been quoted in other articles saying the rollback elimination will make it more difficult to pass levies.

Educators across the state have echoed the same sentiments. An extensive article in the Akron Beacon Journal said voters in many communities may not realize how the provision will affect them from a tax standpoint.

Posey said she has spoken to other local districts about the change and the need for an emergency clause.

“Some have said they are glad someone is taking the initiative to do this. They will also speak to their representatives,” she said.

Should the bond issue fail, the district will need to use operational money to repair the middle school roof, she and Mook have said.

With a new school year under way next month the district is doing what it can to remedy the problem. In late May the board approved patching the roof, closing a portion of the building and moving students to other areas.

The money for the patching is coming from the general fund, and although not as costly as a replacement, it has resulted in at least two reductions in force through staff reorganization.

This marks the third time the district has put the bond before voters. The first time was in August of 2012.