Avonworth to increase taxes

Security upgrades included in 2018-19 budget

Property owners in the Avonworth School District can expect to see an increase in the property tax millage rate for the 2018-19 fiscal year, with final approval of the coming year’s budget expected at next Monday’s school board meeting.

An increase of .43 mills will bring the district’s overall millage rate from 18.67 to 19.1 and provide about $474,000 to offset a projected budget deficit of just over $1 million. It will be the district’s first increase since the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The millage hike equals a 2.3 percent rate increase, which falls within Avonworth’s Act 1 index limit of 2.4 percent.

The board is expected to approve a final budget that lists expenditures of $33,367,337, and revenues of $32,297,005.

Some of that deficit will be made up through transfers from the district’s reserve fund balance, which is expected to total $3.3 million by the end of June, according to director of fiscal management Brad Waters.Of that total, some $2.2 million is considered “unassigned,” or not committed to certain future expenditures -- such as pension contributions and capital improvements -- as permitted by state law. Under state law, a school district like Avonworth cannot increase taxes if its unassigned fund balance is more than 8 percent of its general fund expenditures. Avonworth’s unassigned balance is 6.7 percent of the 2018-19 budgeted expenditures.

Two major projects are impacting the coming year’s budget, Waters said. The first is paying off the $700,000 remaining debt for a building addition.

The second expenditure, for which $200,000 has been allocated, will upgrade school security and include placing an armed security officer in each of the district’s school buildings: the primary center, the elementary school, and the middle-senior high school.

Avonworth currently employs a school resource officer, a member of the Ohio Township Police Department, two days per week. The new security plan calls for that officer to be employed full-time. In addition, the district would hire two security officers, most likely retired police officers, according to superintendent Dr. Tom Ralston.

The plan also includes a professional security assessment at each building, and capital improvements such as the installation of gates. Each building also will be equipped with a “Raptor,” a vehicle license plate reader that will identify registered sex offenders before they enter a school building.

Personnel will continue to be trained on safety and mental health issues.

Ralston admitted that complete prevention of a shooting or other potentially-deadly incident may be an “unachievable goal.” But the addition of professional armed security personnel can act as a deterrent as well as provide a near-immediate response to any crisis situation, he said.

A public hearing on the proposed budget was held Monday, June 4, with no comment from the public. The board is expected to vote on the budget and tax increase at its regular meeting on Monday, June 11.