Strongsville schools seek tax increase, North Royalton schools seek tax replacement, Nov. 6; North Royalton liquor permit also on ballot

October 8, 2018

Strongsville schools seek tax increase, North Royalton schools seek tax replacement, Nov. 6; North Royalton liquor permit also on ballot

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio – Residents in Strongsville, North Royalton and parts of Broadview Heights will vote on two school taxes – one an increase, the other a replacement – on Nov. 6.

Issue 8 is a new 7.9-mill tax that would generate about $11.3 million for operating expenses, including teachers’ salaries, in the Strongsville City Schools. The money could not be used for building repairs or capital improvements.

The tax would cost the owner of a Strongsville home valued at $100,000 an additional $23 a month, or $276 a year, district officials have said. Now, property owners are paying about $1,256 a year in taxes to the district, according to calculations based on Ohio Department of Taxation records.

In May, district officials said that, without the tax, Strongsville schools would start deficit spending in 2019 -- meaning that expenses would exceed revenues and the district would need savings to balance the budget -- until district savings are wiped out in 2022.

Meanwhile, Issue 6 – if voters in North Royalton and sections of Broadview Heights approve – would allow the North Royalton City Schools to combine and replace three existing property taxes that support the school district.

The proposed 10-year combined, 16.5-mill levy would generate $17.8 million a year for operating expenses, including teachers’ salaries, according to school district officials.

Issue 6 would not raise or change taxes for property owners, who are now paying a total of about $536 a year for every $100,000 in property valuation on the three existing 10-year tax levies.

Also on the Nov. 6 ballot is Issue 51, which, if voters approve, would allow the sale of wine and mixed alcoholic beverages at Dari’s Mart, 8653 Ridge Road, in North Royalton.

Here are a few more details about Issues 8 and 6:

Strongsville Issue 8

Earlier this year, Strongsville school board members said state funding cuts to local school districts have made a tax increase necessary.

Also, Cleveland Clinic, which has a Strongsville office in front of SouthPark Mall, was recently awarded property tax-exempt status retroactive to 2012. It means the district will lose another $400,000 in annual property taxes and must refund the Clinic $2 million in past taxes, school district officials have said.

If voters approve the new tax, a 2002 five-year levy, which voters last renewed in 2016, and a 2007 continuous levy, which is permanent, would both remain in place. Those levies generate a total of $17.1 million a year, according to the district.

The new tax would also be permanent. Superintendent Cameron Ryba has said that even with two permanent taxes in place, voters would have a chance to let the district know how it’s performing by renewing or not renewing the existing 2002 five-year levy every few years.

Ryba said the new 7.9-mill tax would allow the district to maintain its existing level of staffing, programs and services through the 2025-2026 school year.

Schools Treasurer George Anagnostou said the district has already taken several measures to cut expenses without negatively affecting education. These measures have included eliminating 199 jobs, reducing by six the number of school buildings and repurposing one building, and saving $4.6 million by switching to a self-insured healthcare plan for employees.

The district has also saved money by creating Strongsville Academy, an online school; implementing a new investment strategy that has increased interest earnings by $100,000 in 2017; and prohibiting pupils from participating in activities requiring fees if they haven’t paid their fees for the previous year.

Ryba said any additional cuts would negatively impact student opportunities, district services, staffing levels and resources.

North Royalton Issue 6

The North Royalton school district faces the expiration of the three existing operating taxes in quick succession. A levy approved by voters in 2009 generates $6.7 million a year, and levies approved in 2010 and 2011 generate $6.7 million and $4.4 million, respectively.

The three taxes bring in a total of $17.8 million annually. If not renewed, they will expire in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The district’s annual operating budget is about $50 million, district officials said.

Schools Superintendent Greg Gurka said the district cannot operate without either the three taxes or the combined tax.

Gurka said the administration and board considered seeking renewal of each tax individually, in 2019, 2020 and 2021. However, the district was concerned about creating “voter fatigue” by asking voters to return to the polls every year.

Also, it would cost the district up to $67,500 for each tax renewal it places on the ballot, starting in 2019. Placing a combined levy on the Nov. 6 ballot has cost the district nothing, since Ohio’s gubernatorial election was already scheduled for November, Gurka said.

Although the North Royalton district is not seeking a tax increase for operations, voters in May 2017 approved an $88 million bond issue that will pay for construction of a new elementary school, the addition of a wing on North Royalton High School and the renovation of North Royalton Middle School.

The bond issue will cost district residents roughly $200 a year for each $100,000 in property value for 30 years.

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