Elmwood asks for income tax renewals as bond issue ends

BLOOMDALE – Tax collection for the Elmwood Local School District’s bond issue for its K-12 building will end this year.

As that bond goes away, so will the nearly $82,000 in maintenance funds that were a part of the issue passed by voters in 2000.

The board of education has to decide if it wants to ask voters for new money – for the first time in more nearly 30 years.

The board on Monday approved placing on the November ballot the requests to renew the 0.50% and the 0.75% income taxes that have been collected since 1991 and 1995, respectively.

Board President Ryan Lee led a lengthy discussion about replacing the expiring classroom facility maintenance fund at the February board meeting. The discussion continued at Monday’s meeting.

“As we start to think about what our options are, clearly those income taxes are very important to us,” Lee said.

The board must decide if the issue should go on the November ballot, Lee said.

“Or should we wait a year — but that can be a gap in funding,” he said.

Lee said he wants to make sure the district is able to maintain the school, which opened in 2004.

“If we don’t have those dollars, how are we going to continue to absorb the increasing the costs of maintaining this facility?” Lee asked.

“We haven’t asked voters for (operating) money in 30 years,” he added.

Superintendent Tony Borton said his only concern with placing a permanent improvement levy on the November ballot is the district can’t afford to have either income tax defeated.

The 0.50% income tax will collect an estimated $902,950 this year while the 0.75% income tax will collect an estimated $1.37 million.

At the end of fiscal year 2022, the district increased its cash reserves to 174 days of operation, up from 170 days the previous year.

“Our levies are the reason why we have that stability,” said Treasurer Jenalee Niese at Monday’s meeting.

“Both are very vital to our continued ability to operate,” she said. “We have not asked for any additional operating money in 26 years.”

If they don’t pass, the district has options in 2024 as the incomes taxes don’t expire until next year, Niese said.

An estimated $235,478 will be collected through property taxes this year for the last time as the bond issue expires. That amount includes the classroom facility maintenance funds, which amounted to $81,172 in 2022.

Lee suggested the board begin discussing whether it needs to ask voters to support a permanent improvement levy.

He wants the community to know they will be paying less property taxes next year, but that means the district will have less money to pay for brick-and-mortar upkeep.

Lee also would like to determine whether taxpayers will support a continuing permanent improvement levy, since those expenses will never go away.

Elmwood learned in 1999 it was in line to receive millions of state dollars to replace its aging buildings. It ultimately qualified for 80% funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission. Local taxpayers approved a 3.2-mill bond issue to collect $3.673 million to pay the balance which included 0.50 mills for maintenance.

Board member Debbie Reynolds last month also pointed out all five board seats will be on the November ballot, which may result in a larger than normal turnout.

Also at the meeting, the board:

• Heard nine people, including students and adults, speak in favor of Elmwood having a girls wrestling team. Many of those in attendance wore pink T-shirts proclaiming Grow Girl’s Wrestling.

Lee said that Borton and Athletic Director Kevin Wolfe are looking into a policy to add an athletic team. Nothing exists on how to add a team, he said.

“As a board, we are hoping in April to see that draft,” Lee said.

He cautioned that it won’t be a vote on girls wrestling, but on a policy on how to make a sport official.

• Accepted a donation of $500 for the food pantry and $500 for the student lunch accounts from St. Paul Lutheran Church Women’s Group.

• Accepted the resignations/retirements of high school teacher Sandra Brunswick and student aide LeeAnn Smith, and approved the hiring of Elizabeth Kellermeyer as high school Spanish teacher.

• Named Ty Traxler as head boys basketball coach, Jason Barringer as head girls basketball coach, and Nick Davis as head wrestling coach.

• Continued services with Life Path and Wood County Hospital for a school nurse for the 2023-24 school year for $97,650.

• Approved a partnership with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office for a full-time school resource officer/DARE officer for the 2023-24 school year as a cost of $33,000.