Get ready for an upcoming election, but don’t worry, you won’t have to hug anyone at the polls.
Acting on a request from Superintendent Traci Yoder, county commissioners, at their April 9 special meeting, unanimously approved the school district’s request for a mail ballot referendum that will ask county voters to renew a four-year half-mill property tax levy.
First approved in 2008, and twice since then renewed in a countywide vote, the referendum will be conducted in June, with "Election Day," the day the ballots must be back in to the supervisor of elections’ office, set for Tuesday, June 23.
For those who aren’t registered to vote, they will have until May 25 to register if they wish to take part in the election. Supervisor of Elections Heather Riley is also asking that any voters who have had a change of address should act now to inform the elections office of changes in their status, to lessen the occurrence of undelivered ballots.
In the 12 years since the referendum was first enacted, it has brought in about $12.3 million to the district to use for operating expenses, from a low of about $813,000 in 2012-13, to a high of about $1.7 million in 2008-09. (See sidebar)
The school board has asserted the roughly $1 million that the levy brings in annually is needed to maintain quality education in the county, including at the charter school.
Since the state funding formula does not allow the district to use capital funds for operating expenses, they contend that since the district lowered its capital outlay taxes by a half-mill in 2008, and has continued to keep it at that level, passing the referendum continues a tax neutral shift, with no additional property tax levies to county taxpayers.
"The state funding formula does not allow Franklin County Public School flexibility in using its capital funds. Capital funds are restricted to construction costs such as building renovation, facility maintenance and upgrades," reads the district’s position paper.
"Operating expenses include student programs, such as all core subjects, band, art, and career and technical programs, and salaries and benefits for teachers and support staff. Referendum funds have been used for the implementation of elementary art, aerospace programs, technology expansion, additional athletic programs, credit recovery and after school activity buses," it reads.
"A failed referendum could mean cutting student programs and teachers," it goes on to say. "The district will weigh options for finding over $1.06 million per year in budget cuts in the 2020-21 budget, just to break even. Eliminations could include student educational, athletic and extra-curricular programs, staffing, salaries, and employee benefits."