June 19, 2012
In June 1992, the first and only time the district asked for one, Buckeye Valley voters approved the district’s current 1 percent income tax.
BV school board members are hoping to extend that streak. Following a unanimous 5-0 vote Friday, the board approved sending the income tax increase request to voters this November.
School officials still need the board of elections to certify the ballot language. But generally, the issue will ask voters to pass a permanent 1/2 percent income tax hike on individuals and estates. If passed, it will generate in its first full year an estimated $2.3 million in new revenue for the school district, or about 10 percent of its 2011 budget.
The issue would also cost someone who makes a $40,000 salary an additional $600 a year.
The tax hike, district officials say, is needed to avoid further cuts in school programs and personnel. In an effort to offset a budget deficit in 2013, school board members have this year instituted $1.2 million in cuts. That has included laying off teachers and support staff, as well as passing $40,000 worth of fee increases.
But some of those cuts will likely be neutralized by expected cuts in state funding, school officials have said.
“It’s not a matter of that we’ve increased our costs,” board president Mike Bell said. “It’s a matter of the reduction of the income we receive, and we need to replace that income.”
School officials are hoping community volunteers will step up to help promote the levy in the community. Still, school administration has to be expecting a tough sell.
BV voters in recent memory have shown a history of voting down requests for property tax hikes and bond issues. But public feedback led school board members to pursue an income tax increase, which could be easier on farmers who own large plots of land, and they’re hoping voters will support it.
“From my perspective, the district has supported us in the past,” Bell said. “It may have taken a few tries, and some communication and plan changes. But the hope is the community sees the need for this in order to keep the schools where they’re at.”
“We’ve heard both positive and negative for this levy. But we don’t know how it’s going to go until it gets to the ballot,” Bell said.
What would happen if voters don’t approve the levy?
It could mean more cuts. But school officials have not discussed what they would do.
“It’s premature to say we know exactly what we’ll need to do,” said Superintendent Jamie Grube. “But I think those articles are going to have to be addressed. I’d like to know as soon as we can to get the word out.”
Grube earlier this year identified three levels of cuts to consider, based on the district’s financial state. The school board has already instituted all of the first-level cuts, as well as some from the second level.
A third level of $865,000 worth of cuts included options as drastic as eliminating high school busing and abandoning an elementary school, but was not discussed seriously.
School officials would not say which options would definitely be on the table, or identify a specific dollar amount the district would shoot for, if the income tax increase fails.
“I would think the previous cuts that we’ve identified would be a starting point,” Grube said. “But, I think if we’re not successful, I think we’ll have to take a step back to re-asses and determine what level of service we’re going to be able to provide.”
In other business:
• The school board accepted the resignation of Ann Johnson, the BVHS theater and vocal music teacher. Johnson had accepted a job with a 30 percent reduction in hours and pay. However, she left to take a full-time job with Whitehall City Schools, said BV director of administrative services Mark Tingley.