Field local schools asks for 6-mill, continual operating levy of voters

Sean Joseph

Technically, the Field Local School District is asking voters to replace the levy they have renewed or replaced since 1986 – but there are some differences this year.

The Field Board of Education voted to make this new levy continual, which means if it is approved by voters in May it will never expire, unlike the previous levies that expired after five years.

The 6-mill operating levy will collect almost $2 million and raise taxes about $65 per year for an owner of a $100,000 house. It will replace a levy that expired in December, but will keep collecting at 3.85-mills until the end of the year. That levy started collecting 6-mills, but went down as property value increased.

The new levy’s millage, if approved by voters, is also expected to decrease for the same reason, said Shirley Mars, Field Board of Education president. But this time, they are asking voters to approve a continual levy instead of putting it back on the ballot in five years.

Superintendent David Redd said the increase the district is asking for is to account for the inflation of gas and electricity prices that everyone else is facing too. If the levy does not pass, the district will have three more chances, in May, August and November, before cuts will be made.

The board of education will have to cut $1.5 million from the budget if the levy is not passed, Redd said.

No decisions have been made yet, but the cuts might include bussing, cafeteria services, and extra-curricular programming, Mars said. The district would probably implement a pay-to-play program for athletics.

“We’re a conservative-operating district,” Mars said. “People would never oppose our need for this levy. It’s just that people are sick of taxes. But if the levy doesn’t pass, we’ll have to cut everything we don’t absolutely have to have.”

District Treasurer Tom Baker said he would be surprised if many voters opposed the levy because they have been so supportive in the past.

He said there are four school districts in Portage County seeking additional taxes and Field Local Schools is asking for the smallest increase. Kent City Schools already has a continual levy as well.

Even though the district has more opportunities to put this on the ballot, Baker said it is crucial voters pass it in May. Later this spring the board will start planning for the 2006-2007 school year, and it would easier to plan ahead if the financial situation is settled.

If the levy does not pass in May, Mars said they will have to report the budget cuts they intend to make to the state.

If the continual levy is passed, the district will probably put another small levy on the ballot in the future to compensate for inflation, Baker said.

Contact public affairs reporter Sean Joseph at [email protected]