NORTH RIDGEVILLE - North Ridgeville City Schools will ask voters to approve a 10-year replacement levy on the March 17 special election ballot. The measure, like the levy voters rejected Nov. 5, consolidates four operating levies due to expire in the next four years and will not raise taxes if approved..
The school board voted 5-0 on Nov. 19 to place the levy on the March ballot. It would raise at least $10.4 million a year over the next 10 years for operating expenses.
School officials and the North Ridgeville Citizens for Better Schools campaigned aggressively for two measures on the Nov. 5 ballot — a bond issue and an 11.72-mill replacement levy. Issue 16 was a maximum 37-year bond issue that would have raised up to $132.9 million for construction of a new high school, elementary school and performing arts center. But both the bond issue and the levy failed.
A bond issue could be placed on the November 2020 general election ballot. If it is not approved by the end of 2020, the district stands to lose $23 million in construction reimbursement funds from the state, said Superintendent Roxann Ramsey-Caserio.
If approved, it will not raise taxes.
"Both needs for the levy and bond's passage still persist, but the need for the operating levy to pass is critical," Ramsey-Caserio said during the meeting. "Enrollment in the district is growing faster than we can keep up. It's only a matter of time before we're going to need to evaluate a timeframe to bring in trailers for classrooms. That will be costly, and it won't solve the problem.
"We remain committed to providing our students a quality education in buildings that are adequate and conducive to a learning environment."
The $10.4 million the levy generates annually accounts for about 40% of the district’s operating costs. If the replacement levy fails in March, the district stands to lose $4.6 million a year beginning in 2021 following the expiration of two levies in 2020, said treasurer Mike Verlingo. The other two levies included in the replacement levy are scheduled to expire in 2022 and 2023, Verlingo said.
Plus, if the district has to start looking into having trailers transported onto the property for temporary classrooms due to overcrowding, that will cost “millions,” Ramsey-Caserio said. The district could start looking at the possibility of bringing in the trailers this summer in time for the 2020-2021 school year. The estimated cost of each trailer is $200,000, plus the added cost of utility hook-ups, Ramsey-Caserio said.
School officials were expected to submit the levy request for the March 17 ballot to the Lorain County Auditor's Office last week. Verlingo said he expects the millage will be the same as November’s failed levy.
Verlingo also said the city needs commercial and industrial growth to generate more tax revenue for the district.
School board President Kelly McCarthy asked before last week’s vote whether the district would receive tax revenue from new home construction.
"Once I knew we would get tax revenue from more growth, I felt more comfortable about placing this issue on the March ballot," she said.
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