The Mentor Schools Board of Education decided to put two renewal levies on the May 2013 ballot during a work session Thursday afternoon.
The renewals, which would not raise taxes if passed, are for an operating levy that brings in about $15 million per year and a 1-mill permanent improvement levy that brings in about $1 million per year.
The permanent improvement levy is set to expire at the end of this year. The operating levy would expire at the end of 2014.
The Mentor Public Schools district has previously said that, according to the its 5-year financial projection, it needs to pass three levies in the next three years -- two renewals and a new one -- or it will face a $30 million deficit by the 2015-2016 school year.
Consequently, it is not a surprise that the Board decided to go to the ballot. However, they had some options on how it could be done.
They could have chosen to combine the levies into one single ballot item. However, then the levy would have been an additional levy -- even if it did not raise taxes. So the Board decided to avoid the stigma of an additional levy and its connotation of raised taxes.
They also could have opted to put the levies up during different elections, but the Board preferred to place them on the same ballot. They were concerned that putting up levies on consecutive elections or even consecutive years could cause "voter fatigue."
The group Citizens Supporting the Mentor Schools hired political consultants Burges & Burges to consult with the Board before making their decision Thursday. Burges polled 400 registered voters living in the Mentor School District to gage their support for the levies.
Bill Burges attended the work session Thursday. He said more than 70 percent of those polled supported both levies. (He also noted that 23 percent said the time had come to vote against all tax issues.)
Burges recommended the Board place the renewal levies on the same ballot and not lump them together as one additional levy. The Board took his advice on both counts.
Technically, the levies are not on the May ballot yet. Instead, the Board voted to have the Lake County Auditor's Office review the proposed levies. They scheduled a special meeting for Jan. 25, which is when they intend to vote to put the levies on the ballot.
The proposed operating levy would be a 10-year renewal levy. The $15 million it brings in annually represents about 17 percent of the district's general fund.
Though this levy will likely be on the ballot this May, if passed, the school district will not start collecting on it until after its predecessor expires at the end of 2014.
Meanwhile, the proposed general improvement levy would be for a continuing period of time, meaning it would not expire if passed.
Because it is a permanent improvement levy, the district can only spend the money that levy brings in on improvements for grounds and equipment.
Mentor Schools has not had a new levy since 2004.
CFO Daniel Wilson previously said the district would need a new levy by the 2015-2016 school year or it would face a $30 million deficit.