Warren takes first step toward seeking 10-year levy

Warren Local School District will likely be asking voters in May for a 10-year renewal of the so-called emergency tax levy, which funds general operations in the western Washington County district.

The levy has generated more than $1.75 million annually for the district since 1995.

The Warren Local Board of Education voted at its regular monthly meeting Monday night to approve the ballot language and send it to Washington County Auditor Bill McFarland for certification. In the process board members discussed the merits and drawbacks of the 10-year time frame for such a levy.

Board member John Nichols expressed concern that asking for a 10-year renewal instead of five years would make voters less likely to approve additional levies down the road.

“In five years, if we have a situation where we’re in need of new funding, it’s going to be harder,” said Nichols.

The levy has been approved by voters in five-year increments since going into effect in 1995. In fact, this coming ballot will be the first time the school district has had the option to offer up a longer renewal period for a vote, said Warren Local Treasurer Melcie Wells.

Board President Sidney Brackenridge added that if more money is needed, the district can always ask for additional levies in the future. A 10-year renewal on the emergency levy, if passed, would at least guarantee the district that $1,755,600 can be expected annually.

“At least you’ve got something in place,” said Brackenridge.

The math sometimes can be confusing.

The fact that increasing valuation in the district has actually decreased the amount paid by individual taxpayers over the past several years will likely be seen as positive by voters, said Wells.

The levy was introduced at over 9 mills and has dropped to an estimated 5.54 mills for the upcoming tax year, said Wells.

Additionally, introducing the levy as a renewal means taxpayers get to keep benefiting from 12.5 percent state rollbacks that would be lost with the introduction of a new levy, she said.

Nichols agreed to follow the recommendation by the finance committee for a 10-year renewal but added there would need to be an education process for the voters.

“Most people are not aware that the emergency levy (tax) has dropped and dropped and dropped over the years,” he said.

The board also learned Monday that the district, as part of the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative Personalized Learning Network, was chosen to receive one of the Ohio Department of Education’s 24 Straight A Fund grants. The $15 million grant will assist 25 other participating districts develop resources for advanced learning and dual enrollment classes.

Warren High School is already offering three dual enrollment classes at the high school this year and the grant will enable the school to broaden that scope, said Warren Local School District Superintendent Kyle Newton.

“What I’m most excited about is this will allow our teachers to become certified to teach dual enrollment classes,” said Newton.

Dwight Trader was certified through Zane State College earlier this year to teach calculus.

With classes credited for dual enrollment, students no longer need to take an Advanced Placement exam to get college credit. They need only to pass the class. Students are appreciative of the opportunity, said Trader.

“Before, to get college credit, the students would have to spend $85 to take the AP test and if they scored well enough they’d get college credit,” he said.

The school board agreed Monday to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Zane State College to allow more teachers to become certified to teach dual enrollment classes.

At least 10 teachers have expressed an interest in the certification, meaning Warren High School students could ultimately be graduating high school with 30 college semester hours already under their belt, said Newton.

Additionally, the memorandum of understanding with Zane State College is completely free, said Newton. A separate memorandum that the high school has in place with Washington State Community College has a per-credit-hour fee for the school district, he said.

In other business, the board accepted three donations, including a $10,188.70 from American Electric Power that will fund a mobile computer lab at Barlow-Vincent Elementary.

“AEP fully funded that lab,” said Newton.

The lab will be tested at Barlow-Vincent and hopefully implemented at all the schools in the future, said Newton.