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Aurora schools grateful for cash from approved levy

Levy OK avoids deficit situation

By BOB GAETJENS Reporter Published: May 10, 2017 1:00 AM
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AURORA -- After the approval May 2 of a 5.9-mill school operating levy, the local school district should be in decent shape financially, and voters shouldn't have to worry about a new levy for a while.

Without new money, the district could have faced a decifit by 2019.

On May 2, voters passed Issue 4 by a count of 1,857 (62 percent) to 1,130 votes (38 percent), according to final but unofficial results from the Portage County Board of Elections.

In November 2016, residents renewed a 7.33-mill levy, and a 5.61-mill levy will be up for renewal in 2020, according to district treasurer Bill Volosin.

Although the 5.9-mill continuous levy is technically new money for the district -- generating about $3.7 million annually -- it doesn't feel that way, said Superintendent Pat Ciccantelli.

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"We lost $2.4 million of state revenue per year [in recent years]," he said. "A fair amount of this money is going to fill that gap."

He said the state's phaseout of the tangible personal property tax on business real estate, furnishings and fixtures hit the district hard.

The new tax will cost the owner of a home valued at $200,000 about $415 annually, according to the district.

Ciccantelli said the money will enable the district to continue some educational programming, including the ongoing effort to get Chromebooks in the hands of as many students as possible.

Currently, sixth- to 12th-graders have their own Chromebooks signed out from the district. Those are on a three-year lease with an option to buy at the end of that term, he explained.

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Ciccantelli said the district plans to purchase the Chromebooks at the end of the lease and hand them down to third- to fifth-graders. "Then we'll get new Chromebooks for those kids in grades six to 12," said Ciccantelli.

He said he appreciates the hard work of the levy committee chaired by Amy Papesh and Angie Bolbach. "We're very appreciative as a school district for their work," he said. "They were exemplary in their efforts and expertise."

Papesh said the committee focused on turning out likely levy supporters rather than changing minds. By appointing neighborhood champions throughout the community, she said the panel spread its message at the grassroots level.

"This levy was a challenge because it was putting a significant millage on the ballot," she said. "Our goal was 250 votes per neighborhood."

The committee also launched a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter. "I'd say at the beginning we updated once a week, and as we got closer to the election, we did it every day," said Papesh, adding the committee posted facts about the levy.

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