Thursday, April 24th, 2014

WJ Schools going on May ballot for income tax increase

By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer

Jefferson Local Schools’ 0.5-percent income tax levy expires at the end of this year. District representatives hope voters will renew the levy in May with a 0.5-percent increase.

A similar request was yanked from the November 2013 ballot when it was discovered the ballot language did not match the district’s intended request. The levy issue was listed at 0.5 percent instead of 1 percent.

At their Jan. 13 meeting, board members approved a resolution sending the tax request to the Madison County Board of Elections for the May  ballot.

The 1 percent tax would be collected on earned income only, the same method for the 0.5-percent income tax currently on the books. While the levy will appear on the ballot as a new issue, Superintendent William Mullett wants to assure voters the tax is actually a renewal with a 0.5-percent increase.

“This is not for new programs. This is simply to keep funding our current operations. It would not begin to be collected until next year,” he said.

“This levy helps to maintain a balance in the district’s tax structure so that there is not a complete reliance on property taxes. This, in particular, helps senior citizens and those on fixed incomes.”

The current income tax is projected to generate $863,939 in 2014, which is slightly less than 7 percent of the district’s total revenue of $11.3 million. Expenditures for the same fiscal year are forecast at $12 million. If the downward trend continues and the levy does not pass, in fiscal year 2017, Jefferson Local is projected to be $3.8 million in the red.

According to Mullet, Jefferson Local—like similar districts across Ohio—endured serious budget cuts by the state and through the legislative process. Over a 10-year span, the district lost $600,000 in state aid. Also, $1 million in federal money intended to offset state cuts dried up.

“Personal tangible income, which was a tax largely on business inventory and machinery, has gone entirely away,” Mullett continued. “At one time, we collected over $1.3 million per year. That’s gone and not coming back.”

A tax abatement for Jefferson Industries ended in June. One for Target, which netted $240,157 for the district’s general fund in fiscal year 2013, ends this year. In 2013, Jefferson Local received over $640,000 in abatements. In fiscal tear 2014, that number drops to $271,227.

Mullett said that while the district benefitted from new growth in West Jefferson’s industrial park and through open enrollment, this type of revenue cannot indefinitely fund growing needs.

“Our excellent track record in both sound financial management of the district and consistent com-munity support through the passages of levies was a key component in the bond rating agency’s con-sidering us a very secure, highly rated district,” Mullett said.

Annual board reorganization

Jerry Doran and Gene Keel, elected in November, were sworn in as board members at the Jan. 13 meeting. Doran is an incumbent. Keel is new to the board.

David Harper was re-elected as board president, and Ed Shepherd was re-elected as vice president. Doran was the lone vote against both appointments. Doran also voted against the re-appointment of Dr. Meg Hiss as Jefferson Locals’ representative on the Tolles Career and Technical Center board. He also declined to serve again as the district’s legislative liaison. Hiss is the new legislative liaison.

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