Columbiana voters OK income tax



An operating levy that benefits the mentally and physically disabled will remain in effect.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
COLUMBIANA -- Property tax in the Columbiana Exempted Village School District will go down in 2003.
School Superintendent Patricia Hura said the board will vote tonight to repeal a 6-mill emergency operating levy that otherwise would continue through 2003. In addition, a 1.6-mill permanent improvement levy expires in December.
The board meeting is at 6 p.m. at the high school.
The school board can do away with the 6-mill levy because voters approved a 1 percent income tax for district operations Tuesday. The income tax will generate about $1.2 million annually.
Hura and board member James Bosela said voter approval of the income tax request is the result of a grass-roots effort by numerous volunteers, many of them pupils.
"We're ecstatic," Bosela said after Tuesday's returns showed the measure passed. Columbiana County voters in the school district approved the request by a 54 percent margin. Meanwhile, 58 percent of the 600 voters in the Mahoning County portion of the school district voted in favor of the income tax.
"There's no way we would have accomplished this without all the work by those volunteers," Bosela said.
Covers shortfall
School Treasurer Lori Posey has said the 1 percent income tax will cover the shortfall that will occur due to the loss of a 1.6-mill permanent improvement levy -- about $123,000 annually.
Hura said the board can repeal the emergency operating levy because the income tax revenue will also cover the revenue generated by that levy, about $870,000 annually.
Voters defeated the 1.6-mill permanent improvement levy three times this year.
School officials have said if the income tax issue failed, a deficit of $1 million or more would result. That deficit would force cuts in programs and services and the state could take control of the district's finances.
At some school board meetings this fall, high school students have said a loss of extracurricular activities such as music or athletics, and the loss of honors and advanced placement courses would make it difficult to remain competitive for college placement.
"This was all about continuing excellence," Hura said. "People saw that the need for the tax is there, and that we want to continue the academic excellence our students have achieved."
Hura said the income tax collections will begin when district residents file their income tax returns next year. The school district will then receive quarterly payments from the state, she said.
MRDD levy
The Columbiana County Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Board won't have to put tax requests before voters as often because voters approved changing the collection on an existing levy from a five-year limitation to a continuing period.
Voters approved the request Tuesday by a 58 percent margin.
School officials said the amount of the levy, 2.5 mills, stays the same, as will the amount it generates, some $2.7 million annually.
The levy, which would have expired at the end of 2003, costs the owner of a $70,000 home about $40 annually.
Money generated is used to fund many of the operations the disabilities board undertakes for the mentally and physically disabled. Those include educating about 200 preschool and school-aged children, offering workshops and occupational training for about 260 people and providing residential services for about 46 people.

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