ABOUT THE LEVY & FAQs

November 8, 2016 – 5-Year, 3 Mill Permanent Improvement (PI) Levy

Sidney City Schools strive to educate all students to achieve academic excellence, be responsible citizens, and become prepared for further education and productive employment. It is the mission of Sidney City Schools to provide a superior education and ensure that ALL students realize their maximum potential. A significant contribution to a student’s success is a quality learning environment, and ensuring a quality learning environment requires facility maintenance, transportation, technology, and textbook upgrades.

Between 2008 and 2010, there were 6 failed operating levy attempts. During that time, there was much public criticism of how Sidney City Schools was operating and the decisions being made by leadership. These were not the best of times for the community and the schools. Since that time, the district has undergone considerable change­­—reducing staff, solidifying administration, tightening the budget, and becoming more transparent with the public, all while operating within our means.

WHAT IS THE SIDNEY CITY SCHOOLS PI LEVY?

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, Sidney City Schools will be asking voters to approve a 3.0 mill Permanent Improvement (PI) levy for 5 years to maintain current facilities and equipment. In 2009, the Sidney City School Board allowed a .8 mill PI levy to expire, which had been renewed every 5 years since 1979; from 1969-1978, a 1.0 mill PI levy has been in place. Without a PI levy, permanent improvement expenses (as detailed below) have been taken from the general fund. The passage of this levy will ensure that the district can maintain facilities, buses, textbooks, and technology with minimal or no impact to the general fund.

The total amount of money to be collected annually by the levy is $1,383,628. Monies collected from the PI levy can only be used for facility repairs and upgrades, and CANNOT be used for salaries, wages, or benefits.

WHAT IS CLASSIFIED AS A PERMANENT IMPROVEMENT EXPENSE?

Permanent Improvement funds can only be used for tangible, permanent improvements to and for the district. Examples of permanent improvements include building and grounds maintenance and upkeep, including:

Roofs
Bus Maintenance & Purchases
Window Replacements & Upgrades
Lockers
Classroom Furniture
Boilers
Water Lines/Plumbing
HVAC Repairs & Upgrades
Electrical Repairs & Upgrades
Brick & Mortar
Sidewalk and Parking Lot Maintenance & Repair
Playground Mulch
Door Upgrades
Building Security Enhancements
Gutters
Indoor/Outdoor Lighting
Sump Pumps
Carpet/Floor Tile
Gutters

Directly related to learning, permanent improvement expenses also include textbooks and technology, including:

Computers
Network Infrastructure & Switches
iPads
Chromebooks

Monies collected from the PI levy can only be used for facility repairs and upgrades, and CANNOT be used for salaries, wages, or benefits.

WHAT ARE SOME SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF PENDING/ KNOWN PI EXPENSES?

Averaging $1.18 million per year over next five years, specific pending/known PI expenses include the following:

  • Sidewalk repairs – all buildings
  • Parking lot repairs – Longfellow, Whittier, Sidney Middle School, Sidney Alternative School
  • Cold water lines – Emerson, Longfellow, Whittier
  • Flooring – all elementaries
  • Key fob door entry security system – Sidney High School, all elementary
  • Door replacement – Emerson, Longfellow, Sidney High School – 6 total sets of double doors
  • 3 buses over four years, 4 vans
  • Garage for school vans – to lengthen life span
  • Window replacement – Sidney Alternative School, Lowell
  • Lighting upgrade to LED throughout district – over 4 years
  • Playground maintenance – remove pea gravel, replace with mulch
  • Roof replacement – all schools and service center over 5 years on a schedule
  • Electrical upgrades – Northwood and Whittier
  • Boiler replacement – Sidney High School, Sidney Alternative School, all elementaries – over 2 years
  • HVAC – Sidney High School
  • Plumbing – Sidney High School
  • Boiler room ceiling replacement – Emerson
  • Technology upgrades
  • Door replacement – SAS

It is important to note that these are KNOWN and expected repairs on a schedule. Emergency repairs could arise and changes to the schedule could occur.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A PI LEVY?

Sidney City Schools strive to educate all students to achieve academic excellence, be responsible citizens, and become prepared for further education and productive future employment. It is the mission of Sidney City Schools to provide a superior education and ensure that all students realize their maximum potential. A significant contribution to a student’s success is a quality learning environment. Ensuring a quality learning environment requires facility maintenance, security enhancements, transportation upgrades, and technology and textbook upgrades.

By maintaining our current buildings, most built in the mid-1950’s and early-1960’s, the district is able to continue to provide quality learning environments without asking voters to fund costly new schools.

As a result of the absence of a PI levy, which expired 2009, PI expenses have been funded through the general fund. Since 2012, $1,450,000 has been transferred from the general fund to cover specific PI expenses. Through solid financial decisions and reduced costs in key areas, the district has a positive cash balance, however, it is imperative that we reestablish a permanent improvement levy. 

HOW MUCH WILL THIS COST HOMEOWNERS?

Impact to homeowner for every $100,000 of property valuation:

Property Value                       $100,000
Assessment Rate (35%)         x        .35
Assessed Value                         $35,000
Mills to be Levied                  x       .003
New Taxes Annually               **$105
          When divided out over the course of a year, this amounts to 29¢ per day.

Proposed Millage vs. Expired/Reduced Millage:

Expired Millage – In 2009, the Board of Education allowed the long-standing .8 mill PI levy to expire. Homeowners saw an annual reduction of $28 per $100,000 property value on their property taxes.
Reduced Millage – Unlike operating millage, bond millage is not automatically reduced for increased property valuation, therefore, in 2015, the Sidney City School Board took action to reduce the millage collected for the repayment of the Sidney Middle School Bond Levy by 1.2 mills. The collections at that time were more than sufficient for the annual principal and interest payments. As a result, homeowners saw an additional reduction of $42 per $100,000 property value on their property taxes.

                                 2016 – Proposed          2009 – .8 Mills Expired          2015 – 1.2 Mills Reduced
Property Value                    $100,000                                $100,000                                    $100,000
Assessment Rate (35%)      x         .35                                x        .35                                    x         .35
Assessed Value                      $35,000                                  $35,000                                      $35,000
Mills to be Levied               x        .003                                x    .0008                                    x    .0012
New Taxes Annually             **$105                                        -$28                                           -$42

**The difference to the homeowner, per $100,000 property value, will be an additional $35 per year (10¢ per day) when the .8 mill PI levy that expired in 2009 and the 1.2 mill reduction in 2015 of the bond millage are taken into account.

WHAT IS WORDING ON THE BALLOT FOR THE PI LEVY?

A majority affirmative vote is necessary for passage.

An additional tax for the benefit of the Sidney City School District FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING FUNDS FOR PERMANENT IMPROVEMENTS at a rate not exceeding three (3.0) mills for each one dollar ($1.00) of valuation, which amounts to thirty cents ($0.30) for each one hundred dollars ($100.00) of valuation, for a period of five (5) years, commencing in 2016, first due in calendar year 2017.

**It is important to note the difference between fair market value and tax assessed value. See above “How much will this cost homeowners?”

WHY IS A PI LEVY NECESSARY WHEN SIDNEY CITY SCHOOLS HAS SUCH A HEALTHY CARRYOVER BALANCE?

In the not-so-distant past, Sidney City Schools weathered some very unstable financial times. In an effort to put the district on a path to improved fiscal health, difficult decisions were made, including staff reductions, pay reductions and freezes, benefits reductions, and tightening of discretionary spending. As a result of these efforts, as well as recent changes in state funding that have been favorable for Sidney City Schools, the district has been able to turn the finances around and build a comfortable carryover balance; however, we must not get too comfortable. Annual operating expenses cannot be contained at the current levels forever; it would be irresponsible to think so. Plus, the reliability of state funding is only as secure as the current 2-year (biennial) state budget. Each new state budget brings the uncertainty of a new funding formula and its impact on the district’s revenue.

Furthermore, since the expiration of the original PI Levy in 2009, Sidney City Schools has been subsidizing the Permanent Improvement Fund with General Fund dollars. The funding requirements to maintain the district’s infrastructure, technology, transportation, etc. are more than the General Fund can sustain. In an effort to responsibly manage the district’s operating expenditures and preserve the General Fund carryover balance without asking for district residents to pass an operating levy, the passage of a PI levy, which restricts the funds to capital expenditures only, is necessary. While a portion of funding from the General Fund does support capital expenditures, the funding required for maintaining the district’s Permanent Improvement needs out paces what the General Fund can provide.

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE SCHOOL DISTRICT CARRYOVER BALANCE THAT PEOPLE ARE REFERRING TO?

Every school district is required to submit an annual 5-year financial forecast to the Ohio Department of Education to show how healthy or unhealthy a school district’s financial well-being is. This forecast (estimate) shows the cash balance, or carryover balance, at the end of each fiscal year. The forecast is more precise the first two years of the financial picture because it goes along with the state biennium, which provides resources to school districts; the state biennium is updated every two years. Thus, in such a forecast, years 3-5 are much more difficult to gauge.

Even though the school district, through good, sound management and fiscal responsibility, has a healthy cash balance of $19,000,000, it is important to avoid the position we were in just a few years ago when we had serious financial concerns and our carryover balance was under $2,000,000 WITH a Permanent Improvement (PI) fund. Our current 5-year financial forecast shows deficit spending in fiscal year 2018 and a reduced carry over balance by fiscal year 2020 to $7,000,000.

Unexpected expenses continue to carve away at this carryover balance since the district let the former PI levy expire in 2009. Most school districts have a separate PI fund for such expenditures as school bus purchases, roof repairs, window replacement, computer purchases and a variety of other tangible improvements with a shelf life of an estimated 5 years; PI funds cannot be used for salaries or benefits. Examples in the past several years of such unexpected PI expenses (paid for out of general or operating budget) include $416,000 to upgrade the school district network infrastructure, $104,000 for replacements of two roof sections at Sidney High School, and $20,000 to replace damaged cabinets and install carpet from the flood at Emerson. Replacing school buses costs the district upwards of $100,000.

A separate PI fund to pay for such expenditures is needed to prevent this carryover balance from further erosion. Through continued good and sound fiscal management, the district plans to not return to the days of just a few years ago when the financial picture was unfavorable.

WERE SCHOOL FUNDS USED TO PAY FOR THE TURF FIELD AT SIDNEY MEMORIAL STADIUM?

In 2004, community leaders representing Sidney City Schools and Lehman Catholic created a stadium committee to raise private donations to build a premier football stadium. Sidney Memorial Stadium, which is home to both Sidney High and Lehman Catholic football, provides a great venue for students, players, cheerleaders, bands, fans and media.

At the conclusion of the extremely wet 2012 fall athletic season, it became evident that Sidney Memorial Stadium was in need of a new playing surface. The Sidney Vespa Quarterback Club created a Sidney Artificial Turf Steering Committee comprised of Vespa members, Lehman Catholic supporters and Sidney community advocates. This steering committee was integral in spearheading the entire process, starting with field design options, community fundraising efforts and installation.

The benefits of installing an artificial turf playing surface in Sidney Memorial Stadium are many. With the addition of artificial turf, it will become a full year use facility for the entire community with the ability to host large corporate and community events. Marching band competitions, Little Cavs football, the MayFest soccer tournament and Sidney Little League football are just some of the additional community uses of the stadium. And, it offers the ability to host both football and soccer playoff games which will have a positive economic impact on the community, schools and booster groups. In addition, we will no longer have the costs of mowing, fertilizing, and maintaining the grass field, to the tune of approximately $15,000 per year.

To get the project started, there was an initial seed donation of $100,000. Committee members raised an additional $500,000 in sponsorships from local businesses, community leaders, friends and family of both schools. No money from Sidney City Schools or Lehman Catholic was used to complete this massive project. ALL donations came from private sources.

The Sidney Artificial Turf Project is a wonderful example of the fantastic community support that we share to benefit our local businesses, schools and residents.

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?

Remember to vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Here is a summary of helpful resources:

  • Sidney City Schools has links to the district’s 5‑five year (financial) forecast under Departments>Treasurer.