May 10, 2011
Buckeye Valley School board seem intent on pursuing a ballot issue this November — and it’s likely to be a request for an income tax increase, according to discussions held Tuesday night.
“I think now the question is what’s the right percentage,” said board president Mike Bell.
Among the options board members will consider: a 1/2 percent increase, a 3/4 percent increase and a full 1 percent increase. Bell asked district treasurer Sandra Griscom, who is in the process of compiling the district’s latest five-year financial forecast, to consider best-case, worst-case and middle-of-the-road financial scenarios to help the school board reach a decision.
If they want to get a request on the November ballot, board members must take all the necessary votes by Aug 10. BV voters last approved an operating issue in 1992, which established the current 1/2 percent income tax.
According to current projections, a 1/2 percent increase would put the school district in the black for the next five years, as opposed to a projected deficit approaching $2 million in 2013, Griscom said.
“When you get that far out there, things can change a lot. But (assuming a 1/2 percent increase) our bottom line will have $3 million in it in fiscal year 2015,” she said.
Board member Rod Boester said the school district should not rule out a 1 percent hike. The school district has instituted a plan to make $1 million worth of cuts and fee increases, to address cuts in state funding, a loss of income tax revenues and increasing personnel costs.
“I think we need to seriously think about where we want Buckeye Valley to be in five years. I don’t think we want to continue to cut programs,” Boester said.
A property tax levy request in the neighborhood of 4.5 mills (around $137 in additional taxes per $100,000 in value) is also on the table, but perhaps only nominally. Discussions for the levy did not gain much traction Tuesday night.
The levy would have the benefit of being more predictable since it locks in a set dollar amount, whereas the income tax would fluctuate with the economy. The property tax levy would also only exist for a certain number of years, whereas an income tax increase is permanent.
On the other hand, the income tax would not tax income sources such as social security, inheritances, disability and worker’s compensation. Larry Cline, a district resident and farmer who collects social security, said the income tax would not punish him and other farmers in the community if that year’s crops fail.
“The property levy stays the same no matter what, and that could hurt me,” Cline said.
“I would support a 1/2 percent income tax increase 100 percent,” Cline later said.
Beth Fedoush, another district resident, said she favors a 1 percent increase, if that means BV could expand its academic and elective offerings for her first-grade child.
“I want as many opportunities for my child as possible,” Fedoush said.
The board previously seemed poised to ask voters to approve a one-half percent income tax hike joined with a $36 million bond issue to build three new elementary schools this year. However, that plan failed because it did not get enough support from school board members.
In other business, board members discussed an ongoing plan to build a weight room/”wellness center” on the high school campus. The project has languished somewhat as the board has deliberated on exactly how to address it, leading some athletic supporters, including Boester, to criticize the board for inaction.
The board now seems poised to approve a resolution at its upcoming May 17 meeting that would see the booster-led, non-profit BV Foundation completely pay for a standalone, 3,360 square-foot facility through its fundraising efforts.
The school board would approve the start of construction once the BV Foundation provides proof it has enough money to pay for the entire project; when the building is done, the BV Foundation would turn it over operations to the school district, according to the proposed resolution.
The wellness center plan has morphed quite a bit over the past three years. Depending on the specifics, cost estimates have ranged as high as $680,000, and as low as $120,000. A driving force behind getting the project begun soon is that the BV Foundation wants the facility to be completed in time for the athletic season next school year.