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School board keeps promise to hold levy

School board keeps promise to hold levy

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ASHLAND – During the school bond issue election campaign last fall, the Ashland-Greenwood Board of Education promised they would make every effort to keep the overall levy as close to the previous year’s as possible, despite a $59.9 million school bond.

And they did.

During special budget and tax request hearings Monday night, the school board passed the 2021-22 budget and the tax request resolution, setting the overall levy at $0.925 per $100 of valuation.

“It was a huge win for our district and our taxpayers,” said Superintendent Jason Libal Monday night after the meeting.

As Libal was initially working on the budget months before its passage, he said he was shooting for a $0.99 overall levy as they factored in the new bond levy. But a number of aspects worked in the school district’s favor to keep the levy the same as 2020-21.

This included a higher-than-expected increase in property valuations for the district. Libal said the increase was 8%. For the first time, the valuation in the Ashland-Greenwood school district rose above $1 billion, from $974,848,402 in 2020-21 to $1,053,122,196.

“I think an 8% increase is pretty unheard of,” said Libal.

The growth in property valuations gave the district flexibility within the budget to maintain the overall levy, Libal said.

The bond levy was set at $0.21 per $100 of valuation. Libal said historically low interest rates of 2.3% worked in the district’s favor when setting the bond.

The district is also receiving nearly $1 million in state aid.

“That made it even better,” Libal said.

The school district folded a previous bond, which had a levy of $0.04, into the new bond fund levy. They also are not asking for additional tax dollars this year for the special building fund, which had a $0.12 levy the previous year. All of the money that had been in the special building fund, which was $4.6 million in 2020-21, is going to be added to the $59.9 million bond fund to construct a new PreK-2 facility and a new middle school with a competition gymnasium and performance auditorium.

Libal said the board made a promise to the constituents if the bond issue passed, they would drop the special building fund levy for the time being.

“That was another lever we pulled to help get us to 92.5 cents,” Libal added.

However, in the public notices published by the school district prior to the public hearings, it is noticeable that the special building fund total is much higher than the previous school year. That is because the $59.9 million school bonds have been deposited into the special building fund, to be used to construct the new facilities.

“The project will be paid out of (that fund),” Libal said.

Libal said the general fund levy was also lowered slightly to help retain the overall $0.925 levy. The general fund levy was $0.765 in 2020-21. It will now be $0.715 per $100 of valuation.

However, the amount of money being requested for the general fund budget has risen slightly. Due to the increase in the property valuation, the lower general fund levy will generate $7,529,823. The general fund tax request was $7,457,590 in 2020-21.

Libal said there was no public input during the budget or tax request public hearings Monday night. There were also no members of the public present at a public hearing on the budget held on Sept. 7.

Suzi Nelson is the managing editor of The Ashland Gazette. Reach her via email at suzi.nelson@ashland-gazette.com.

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