Marysville considers making measure permanent
Marysville schools will be gearing up for a levy attempt in late 2018, but it appears the district will not seek an increase in funding.
Originally passed in 1989 and renewed five times since, a 6.56-mill operating levy, which generates about $3.2 million per year, is set to expire in December of 2019. Because of growth in the district, the actual collection rate on residential properties is currently set at 2.69 mills in order to generate the $3.2 million.
During a work session Monday evening, school board members and administrators discussed possible courses of action the district could take. Officials discussed whether to renew the levy or to place it on as a continuing measure, meaning it would never be put before voters again.
District treasurer Todd Johnson said the levy in question is the only remaining renewal levy on the Marysville books. All other operating levies are permanent funding sources. Johnson also noted that support for the renewals of the levy has steadily increased, being last approved in 2013 by 71 percent of voters.
Board member Dick Smith said the district finance committee has voiced strong support for asking voters to make the measure a continuing levy. He noted that for each renewal attempt a levy committee must be formed to raise thousands of dollars to promote passage of the measures.
By law, school districts may not use public funds for levy promotion. He said the community has shown strong support for the funding measure in the past and he believes the levy cycles to be a waste of money and the time of committee volunteers.
Other board members voiced similar opinions.
“I think we need to take ‘renew’ (every five years) completely off the table,” board member Amy Powers said.
Exactly how the levy is structured could be something new to local voters. Officials said they would be essentially seeking the same amount of money but shifting where it is deposited.
Johnson explained that the district currently collects about 9.41 mills on existing bond measures to cover the $7.5 million in annual debt payments on capital improvements projects, primarily new buildings. Growth has meant that in recent years, the bond measures have generated additional dollars, leading the district to actually have carryover funds.
Johnson said he believes the Union County Auditor will adjust the millage to bring collection into line with the debt payment.
The district also collects about 2.91 mills on permanent improvement (PI) levies, which are used for repairs and improvements to district facilities. The PI fund also receives money from Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, which are special taxing districts placed around commercial developments in the city to promote and pay for development.
Johnson said the district has an opportunity to renew the existing levy, at no additional impact to taxpayers, but shifting the collection from operating funds into the PI funds. The district would then take the TIF money and use it for operating expenses.
Johnson explained that taxpayers would not generate any additional money because the renewal levy, bond measure rollback and TIF infusion into operating funds would be for similar amounts.
An ordinary renewal of the original levy would allow the district to stay in the black through 2022. Johnson said, without explanation, that the proposed measure which shifts collection into the PI fund, would extend that into 2023.
The treasurer noted that the district has not sought a “new money” levy from voters since 2008, meaning that reaching 2023 would mark 15 years that the schools have operated within existing funds.
Board members seemed receptive to the idea of the funding shuffle, but immediately identified the potential pitfall.
“The most challenging part of all this is the complexity,” board president Sue Devine said.
While an effective use of money, Devine said conveying to voters exactly what is being proposed could be difficult.
Board member Nan Savidge said with a stadium renovation project underway, which will use some PI dollars, the district must be “crystal clear” about details of the funding shift. She said voters need to know the net impact of the levy is for operating expenses, such as teacher salaries, rather than PI projects.
The board will continue to discuss the matter and would have three opportunities for passage before experiencing a loss in funds. The district could place a measure before voters in November of 2018, and in May and November of 2019.
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