A Bright Local School District permanent improvement levy that will appear on the May 7 special election ballot for residents of the district is not the same one that voters defeated last November.
Superintendent Ted Downing that while the levies would produce the same amount of money annually for the school district, the one in November was a permanent levy, meaning it would have stayed in place indefinitely unless voters approved another levy to repeal it, while the new levy would expire after five years.
Downing also said the school district has also eliminated plans, at least for the time being, to build a track and field facility with the levy funds.
“We still hope to get a track, but not at this time,” Downing said.
The proposed property levy is for 3 mills and would cost the owner of property $105 annually for each $100,000 in appraised valuation.
But, Downing said, an 0.5-mill Bright Local property tax levy currently on the books will come off after 2020, reducing taxes for property owners in the district $17.50 annually per $100,000 in appraised valuation.
“This levy is important to us, and we want people to understand it is not a permanent levy,” Downing said.
The superintendent addressed the issue of proposed solar facilities that could generate a significant amount of money for the district down the road.
“The solar project is still not guaranteed, and even if it does come to fruition it’s going to be several years before we get any money,” Downing said. “If it does happen, we could decide not run the levy again when it expires, or if the money comes in early, the board could vote to take the levy off.”
Passage of the levy is needed, Downing said, because the district has spent a lot money from its general fund over the last three years making needed improvements to the district’s facilities, and because Bright Elementary is about 20 years old and is starting to need repairs.
The repairs made districtwide over the last years, according to school officials, include: LED lighting that reduced electric bills; air-conditioning in the band area and the ag hallway in the high school building; resurfacing parking lots at both buildings; a new roof on part of the high school; revitalizing the high school gym with a new floor, bleachers and air-conditioning; replacing boilers and chillers at both buildings to make them more energy efficient and stave off future emergency repairs; state-of-the-art computer labs in both buildings; six Chromebook carts; one-to-one technology at the high school; interactive white boards in high school classrooms; more than 80 security cameras at the high school and more than 50 cameras at the elementary; keyless entry systems at both buildings for security; trained and armed staff in both buildings; a new batting facility for baseball and softball; free breakfast for students in grades pre K to 12; and improved lunch menus.
“We need the help. We’ve been spending general fund money and we’re at the point that if we keep doing that, it will hurt academic things,” Downing said. “Funds from this levy can only be used for permanent improvements, and that will free up money for other things we need.”
The November levy was defeated 997-710.
A brochure Downing provided lists what it calls the following levy facts:
* Out of 14 districts in the area, Bright Local has the lowest effective millage. It is at the 20-mill floor, which is the lowest a district can go.
* Bright Local has not received any new operating levies for more than 40 years. Except for bond issues, the district has not passed a levy since prior to 1976.
* By law, the levy funds could not be used for employee salaries or benefits.
* Permanent improvement funds can only be used for maintenance, improvement, or purchase of physical assets with an expected life of at least five years.
* The money would be used to support the district’s 10-year capital spending plan which focuses on building security, maintenance of existing facilities, bus replacement, additional parking at both buildings, and technology.
* The district’s bus fleet has four buses with more than 200,000 miles. Buses operated daily average more than 35,000 miles per year. To maintain a cost-effective bus fleet the district needs to replace one bus at least every other year.
“The district strives to be good caretakers of the taxpayers’ investment,” the brochure says. “A permanent improvement levy will ensure the district’s facilities continue to be maintained independent of school funding imposed by the state.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.