Voters in the Crestwood school district will see a levy on their ballots in November, but it remains up for discussion whether it is a renewal that will not raise additional taxes or a new money issue.
According to Treasurer Deb Armbruster’s five-year projections, the district will exhaust its operating cash balance by 2022.
She previously suggested three options to present to voters. The district could ask for a renewal of the district’s emergency levy that is due to expire at the end of 2019; or it could ask for a new 1 percent earned income tax or a new combination levy that would include a 0.5 percent earned income tax and a $1.5 million operating levy.
The renewal would take the district to 2023, and the two new money issues would take them past 2023, although Armbruster said she could not project how far past that date the funds could take them.
Board Vice President Kristen Cavanaugh, however, noted that no matter what route the board decides to take, it will still need to go back to voters in two years to replenish the permanent improvement fund, which is a different revenue stream. Permanent improvement funds can be used only for property with at least a five-year lifespan such as buildings or buses, whereas general operating funds can be used for things like salaries, benefits and programming.
“I can see the public going, ‘We just gave you money and we’re giving you money again?’” Cavanaugh said.
She suggested that it may be better to ask for the renewal in November, and then spend the next two years educating the public about why they need more operating funds and permanent improvement funds. Two new money issues would then appear on the same ballot, but the board would have time to explain why those funds are necessary.
“On the flip side, some will say that if you put two levies on at one time, one will fail and one will pass,” Superintendent David Toth said.
Board member Todd Monroe also noted that if the board were to decide that it wanted to put either new money option on the ballot, there would be less than four months to form a levy committee, secure community leadership and educate the public. Board President Bonnie Lovejoy suggested that choosing the renewal may be the safest option, and Toth said that in Ohio, 90 percent of renewals pass.
“The biggest thing I believe should happen is we move the district forward, whatever that means. Staying status quo is not that. The renewal will generate the same amount of money then as now, but our expenses increase 3 percent a year,” Monroe said.
Additionally, district expenditures could increase next year because the district will be negotiating two union contracts, Toth noted.
“There’s merit behind both. It’s not easy any time you ask for new money. The best we can do is strategize because you don’t want to keep going back to the voters. You want to limit that,” Toth said.
He asked the board to take a couple of days to think about what they wanted to do and to speak with him individually about their preferences. The board will have to hold a special meeting in the next two weeks to do an official vote on ballot language to meet the June 25 deadline.
Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KristaKanoRCedu.