WJ Schools ask for voters support

Politicians may pledge No New Taxes, but the Jefferson Local School District is holding firm on that promise for renewal of a 15-year-old 0.5 percent income tax.

This time around, if voters say “yes” to the levy for another five years, residents could end up paying even less than they have in the past since the district is running the tax request as an earned-income-only levy. Social Security, pensions, interest, dividends, capital gains, rental income, lottery winnings, and income earned by estates would be exempt.

If approved, the income tax would generate approximately $90,000 less per year for Jefferson Local. District representatives said they are exempting the aforementioned tax-generating funds as a way of acknowledging tough economic times, particularly for people on fixed incomes, such as senior citizens.

A worker with an annual taxable income of $30,000 would pay $150 a year, and only those who live in the school district are taxed. The current tax expires on Dec. 31, 2009; if the renewal passes, collections will begin on Jan. 1, 2010.

With modifications in the way the district collects the income tax, the issue will appear on the ballot as a “new” levy. However, Superintendent William Mullett emphasized it is still the same 0.5 percent income tax voters have repeatedly approved in the past, which generated approximately $880,000 for fiscal year 2008.

“It’s always passed. It’s always kept us afloat,” said Treasurer Jill Smith. “It’s a big chunk of our budget.”

Gas costs are on the rise for everyone and Jefferson Local is no exception. An extra $20,000 was spent this year on fuel. With all of the new construction and renovation throughout the district, buildings are running more efficiently, but Smith said bills are higher when compared with other districts.

“An engineer has come on site and is looking at ways to set up control systems to run as efficiently as possible, therefore putting more savings back into the district,” reported Smith. “We are in a school pool for utilities, so it helps keep costs down when you buy in bulk.”

Mullett commented, “I think we have done an excellent job of being good stewards of our tax dollars. We run a really tight ship.”

In addition to a 20-mill base all Ohio school districts collect, the income tax and an existing 9.5-mill emergency levy are the district’s primary sources of operating revenue for funding salaries and benefits, utilities, materials and supplies, books, computers, and buses. Mullett said the loss of either would have a devastating impact on Jefferson Local operations and services.

According to the superintendent, the district has not asked for new millage in two decades and a five-year forecast indicates Jefferson Local will not need new millage until at least 2012. The 9.5-mill levy was placed on the ballot 20 years ago and voters approved a bond issue in 2003 for new facilities.

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