When is a renewal not a renewal?

Q: When is a renewal not a renewal? A: When it is a substitute levy.

The Springboro School District has placed a complicated tax levy on the November 2017 ballot. On its face, it looks like a renewal of an expiring $7.9 million levy.  However, it is actually a substitute levy (a new tax replacing an old one) with two very important changes.

First, instead of requiring periodic renewal it is a continuing levy.  That means the tax will never end, regardless of whether the money is actually needed. No more voting, just collecting forever.

Second, the tax collected will increase as property value in the district increases. With the current levy the tax remains constant. When new homeowners arrive they pay a share lowering the tax a bit for everyone.

Springboro Schools promotes this tax increase by suggesting it “allows the district to receive revenue from new construction”.  Well that’s true, but what happens to existing property is unclear.

A close look at the ballot language reveals this statement: with the sum of such tax to increase only if and as new land or real property improvements not previously taxed by the school district are added to its tax list”.

Since new construction is continually added to the school district tax list, it appears the tax will always be permitted to increase. Moreover, there is no exclusion for improvements like fences, pools, and patios on existing property. When the ballot language is not plainly understood, the outcome is up for interpretation by tax officials, lawyers, and courts.