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Property Value Decline Heightens Debate Over School Levies in Montgomery County

WYSO/Lewis Wallace

Six Montgomery County school districts have new tax levies on the ballot this November, some for the third, fourth or fifth time. But many homeowners oppose any new taxes, citing losses in property values and the overall post-recession fiscal squeeze among reasons to vote against new levies.

“We lost a lot of money in the value of our property,” said Rene Oberer. “A lot of our life savings was our property.” She and her husband recently moved to Tennessee after selling her Vandalia home at a loss. She opposes a new levy for the Vandalia-Butler schools, and she’s not alone: that’s been defeated three times at the ballot box.

“People are getting squeezed, and we can’t afford it,” she said.

In 2012 Montgomery County estimated a loss of $28 million a year in tax revenues due to lower property values, and the county auditor has predicted that new property assessments in 2014 will yield continued losses in value. Those lower property values mean less cash coming in for schools, plus most districts have seen cuts to state funds since 2009.

Although the exact amounts coming to each district from the state have recently been rejiggered and some funding restored, state funding levels for 2014 will still come out below previous rates. Across the state, a growing number of school districts are reducing budgets or operating at a deficit.

“Our focus over the last five years now has been to reduce and to cut back,” said Centerville schools superintendent Tom Henderson. He says the district has been restructuring, cutting positions, and looking at what’s “mission-critical.” Another failure to pass a new levy would mean cuts to language programs, and possibly music and extracurriculars.

The other Montgomery County districts with new levies on the November ballot are Brookville, Huber Heights, Kettering and Oakwood, while Jefferson Township has an existing levy up for renewal.

See WYSO’s complete list of Miami Valley school levies.

Montgomery County school district levy issues for November 5, 2013:

District name (reason; type of levy; millage)

Centerville (emergency; additional; 5.90) — two recent levy requests lost by narrow margins, last approved a new levy in 2009

Brookville (current expenses; additional; 4.80) — passed a renewal levy in May, 2013, but a new operating was very narrowly defeated

Huber Heights (current operating expenses; additional; 5.95) — a new levy was most recently defeated in August, last approved a levy in 2005

Jefferson Township (current operating expenses; renewal; 5.50) — requests for a levy to build a new school defeated several times since 2011,

Kettering (current expenses; additional; 4.89) — last approved a levy in 2010

Oakwood (current expenses; additional; 5.75) — last approved a levy in 2010

Vandalia-Butler (current expenses; additional; 6.99) —three levies recently defeated