HILLIARD, OH (WCMH) — A number of voters will have to decide whether or not to support school levies on Election Day. Among them, Hilliard City Schools is asking voters to approve a levy for the first time in five years. Proponents says this would be the smallest tax increase from any school levy here in three decades.
The levy would raise property taxes $169 per year on a home valued at $100,000. In return, staffing levels would remain the same and a new middle school would be built on a plot of land next to Hilliard Bradley High School.
The 9th largest school district in Ohio educates more than 15,000 students. More than 1,000 additional students are expected to enroll in Hilliard City Schools during the next five years.
Stasi Trout is leading the campaign to pass the Hilliard Schools levy. She says she has been working on this issue for 18 months. Trout explains, “Hilliard is a very passionate community. People love our schools and we have a tremendous amount of energy and volunteers, from parents, community members as well as staff.”
Trout says there are about 1,000 campaign signs sitting in yards of Hilliard homes. She is optimistic the levy will pass.
Melvin Sims has a student in Hilliard City Schools, but does not support the levy. He says, “I think there is sizable opposition, but this time the school board and the pro-levy folks have spent a ton of money convincing people it’s a must have.” Sims continues, ” I think there is a point they say people move here for the schools. I know people who leave here because of the taxes. My kids are out of school, I am leaving because the taxes are so high. ”
Sims says commercial property is taxed at a much higher rate than homes, which is common across Ohio. He says the practice is unfair to business owners, “In the scenario of businesses, they pay more than their fair share- both at home and at work.”
He also thinks teacher and administration salary raises are out of line with employees in private sector jobs. A Hilliard City Schools Spokesperson says the negotiated raise per year is 2.5 percent. Some district employees receive more if they complete an advanced degree or reach a step increase after so many years of service.
Hilliard City Schools Superintendent Dr. John Marschhausen says he has help well over 100 meetings about this levy. He hopes voters say yes to the proposed levy, “We trust that they’ll see this is what we need to do to keep our schools and our community strong.”
Dr. Marschhausen says the district will be forced to make tough decisions if the levy fails. He explains, “How we do education will change in Hilliard if we are not successful.”
Marschhuasen warns of cuts and overcrowded schools without new funds generated by this levy. He adds, “We’ll have higher class sizes in our elementary schools and we will have to really look at which electives in the middle school and high school we won’t be able to offer anymore.”
Sixty positions would be cut, including 48 teachers. Portables would also be added at schools. Marschhausen says, “We’ll be looking at having to purchase modular trailers and modular classrooms in several of our buildings.”