The Oregon school board last week voted in favor of renewing the district’s permanent improvement levy.
The 2-mill, five year levy is expected to expire at the end of this year. The board’s action at a meeting on Jan. 10 requests that the Lucas County Auditor determine the final millage amount. The board will have to vote again to put the levy on the ballot.
“It’s a renewal. It should not cost the taxpayers any more than they’re currently paying,” said Jane Fruth, the district’s treasurer. “It may even cost them less because of the drops in valuations. We’ll find that out finally from the county auditor once I turn this in. This is the first step.”
Revenue from the levy can only be used for specific purposes, such as for building operations and repairs, equipping and furnishing schools, maintaining and purchasing buses, and computers. It is not for operating costs such as salaries.
“This is not coming out of the general fund,” said Board President P.J. Kapfhammer, who, up until recently, was chairman of the capital improvements committee. “It’s important to understand that PI money in this district has been used extremely well. It’s not a new tax. It’s not a `free for all’ to just go and blow money. We have invested in the community with the PI money. We have done projects that will save the taxpayer money down the road. We’ve done a lot of good things with this money. We’ve saved fuel costs at Jerusalem Elementary School, we’ve done metering at Fassett to save electrical use. We’re been energy efficient. A lot of this money has been used to streamline our expenses and save the community money going forward.”
He also said the money goes toward safety resources.
“In light of the tragedy at another school, I will be looking forward to investing some more money into the safety of our district with these funds,” said Kapfhammer. “There’s a fine line in saying how safe we are and how prepared we are. You’re never going to be fully prepared for something like that. I believe our greatest assets are our kids. So it’s very important to me to put this PI money towards being more safe and prepared. I do want to put some serious dollar amounts into our schools to protect them even greater. This is exactly what we use this money for. It’s making sure the kids are safe, the buildings are safe, and that we’re efficient in the day to day operations. To me, it’s essential that we carry on with this for the betterment of our district and our kids.”
Carol Molnar, vice president of the board, added that the revenue can also be used to upgrade textbooks and computers for students.
“And we will need to upgrade those with the new standards,” she said.
“I might add,” said Dr. Mike Zalar, superintendent of the district, “that if we were not to have this money, it would further deplete our general fund because those monies would have to come from somewhere to pay for textbooks and technology. With the loss of revenue we’ve been experiencing in the last five years - almost 25 percent of our general fund revenue - we cannot afford to lose this revenue as well.”
The levy would be on the May 7 ballot if the board gives final approval, according to board member Jeff Ziviski.
Voters previously passed the 2-mill permanent improvement levy on Nov. 4, 2008. The levy was expected to generate $1,251,932 annually for five years.