(Posted Jan. 24, 2018)
By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer
Madison-Plains Local Schools is placing a request for a 1.25 percent earned income tax on the May 8 ballot. If passed, the levy would generate just under $2 million per year for operating expenses.
The school district faces a general fund deficit by the end of the 2018-19 school year. State law prohibits a school district from starting a school year without enough funding.
“The district has been reducing operating costs for the last six years and hasn’t seen an increase in local revenue since 2005… We are now at a point where future cuts will impact programming and students,” said Mark Mason, school board president.
Following the defeat of a property tax levy in August 2017, school officials have been exploring other revenue options and soliciting public input through community meetings, school board meetings, surveys, blogs, social media, and direct mail and email correspondence.
Superintendent Tim Dettwiller reported that 207 people–mostly district residents and parents, only a few Madison-Plains graduates–responded to a survey about district finances. He said most respondents said they knew the district would run out of funds at the end of the 2018-19 school year. He also said most preferred to see an income tax, rather than a property tax, on the May ballot.
About the feedback she has received from residents, Anthoula Xenikis, school board vice president, said, “A lot of people said they don’t own the property they live on.”
The most recent community input meeting was held Jan. 17. The school board then met in special session on Jan. 18 at which time they voted unanimously to go with an income tax request.
Prior to the vote, board member Bob Butz said that more and more district residents seem to favor an income tax.
“That was clear last night (at the input meeting). People are changing,” he said.
The income tax would be on earned income only. The tax would not be levied on interest, dividends, pensions, or child support, said Treasurer Todd Mustain.
“The board recognizes the burden our unique tax base places on our farmers, homeowners and certainly those living on a fixed income,” Dettwiller said. “This solution is one we hope alleviates the impact on certain individuals and stabilizes the district’s finances.”
If the levy passes, tax collections would start in January 2019.
The board will develop a budget reduction plan to balance the books for 2018-19 in case the levy does not pass. The board will discuss the plan at its next regular meeting, set for 7 p.m. Feb. 20 in the board meeting room at the elementary building.