HAMMONDSVILLE - A 9.45-mill operating levy for the Edison Local School District is on the Nov. 6 ballot for voters' consideration.
The levy proposal would fund basic operating expenses for the district, which includes 1,965 students and pupils from Hammondsville, Richmond, Knoxville, Irondale, Pleasant Hill, Amsterdam, Bergholz, Empire, Stratton and other areas in the northern edge of Jefferson County. The levy would fund district operations, including buses, building maintenance, food services, salaries, wages, benefits of employees and utilities, according to Bill Beattie, district superintendent.
"It's just for the normal, day-to-day operations of the school district," said Beattie.
The district passed an emergency 2.2-mill operating levy in 2009, and the present levy proposal previously was rejected by district voters.
"(The proposal) was on the ballot last November and March," said Beattie, adding it was critical for the levy to succeed in November due to a loss from other revenue sources. "We have lost more than $2.1 million in permanent revenue."
The loss stems from three sources, said Beattie, including a loss of $700,000 in property taxes garnered from FirstEnergy Corp.; a $470,000 loss due to changes in the way state tax is reimbursed to school districts; and a $949,813 loss in funds from federal stimulus funds.
"(The levy proposal) will give us the opportunity to operate for five years," Beattie said, adding if it passes the levy millage would drop to 7.45 mills when the emergency levy expires in 2014.
"We have made as many cuts as we could possibly make to stay out of fiscal emergency. We're currently at bare bones as far as staff. I think it's important Edison voters realize there's nowhere else to cut. We have no choice but to go to the voters," Beattie said.
The levy is based on assessed property values, which is 35 percent of market value. A property with a market value of $50,000 without a Homestead Exemption would be assessed at $17,500, and owners would pay an annual tax of $144 in 2013 before dropping to $111 annually in 2015. A property with a Homestead Exemption valued at $50,000 would be assessed at $8,750, and the owner would pay $72 for all of 2013 before dropping to $55 annually in 2015, according to a chart provided by the school district.
District staff has been cut from 245 persons in the 2010-2011 school year to 199 for this school year, said Beattie. He added the district currently is operating on the same levy value as in 1977.
"We understand the financial hardships people are having right now," said Beattie, adding the levy would allow the district to operate at its present level. "We're just maintaining the programs and education we give to students and pupils right now without (adding additional programs)."
Beattie said an additional hardship could face the district if an anticipated signing bonus due to oil and gas exploitation doesn't materialize this school year.
"We actually signed a lease with Chesapeake Energy Co. for (district) oil and gas rights," said Beattie, adding the district will face a $300,000 deficit this year if the bonus doesn't materialize by the end of the fiscal school year. "We're still hopeful we will receive the (expected bonus this school year), but it's not for sure."
If the district were to be dissolved by the state, Beattie said taxpayers could end up paying higher levy taxes tied to neighboring school districts, depending on which district students and pupils from Edison's different areas would be sent to.
"If the state decided to absorb the district, the residents (within the Edison District) would pay higher levy rates (from other school districts)," said Beattie. "Their taxes would increase."
Beattie said the loss of a school district is detrimental to communities.
"(The community) loses its identity," he said.
For information on the levy, call (740) 282-0065.
(Miller can be contacted at email@example.com.)