What’s in a levy? JVS reconsidering length of levy to save money

By Catherine Gabe - cgabe@civitasmedia.com

What is the best way to sell a levy to the voting public?

That’s a question that the Lorain County Joint Vocational School wants to know. And that’s why it may hire a strategist to determine whether a five-year, a 10-year, or a permanent levy is best.

Right now the district has a five-year levy that expires in December 2017. The school can put the issue on the ballot in November of this year, or March or November of 2017. But that will cost the district money.

It costs about $32,000 to $35,000 just to be on the ballot, said JVS treasurer Cory Thompson.

“There’s a significant argument for going for a 10-year or permanent levy, so we don’t have to face that $30,000 expense every five years,” said board member Anne Schaum, who represents the Oberlin school district. “The challenge of going to a permanent is that we lose the rollback.”

Under a tax rollback, the state was paying 2.5 percent of the levy tab, which were dollars that went back to the district.

However, in 2013, legislators voted to maintain the rollback on existing levies, while eliminating it for new levies.

The impact for the JVS would be that five- and 10-year levies would be seen as renewals but permanent levies would be seen as new or modified levies and cost taxpayers slightly more.

The existing levy generates $3.8 million for the JVS, Thompson said.

The school has passed all levies since it began putting them on the ballot in the mid-1980s. “They have always passed by the third time,” Thompson said. “It’s sometimes been more difficult than others, but they have always passed.”

Board member Rex Engle, who represents the Amherst school district, said the diversity of 13 school districts within the JVS jurisdiction makes it a challenge to pass levies.

Reasons include various communities also having issues on the ballot, fluctuating property values, and the type of levy, he said.

The finance committee will review options to hire a strategist and come back with a recommendation to the board.

Catherine Gabe can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @ReporterGabe on Twitter.

By Catherine Gabe