WEATHERSFIELD BOE Board weighs income tax

The decision on whether to seek an income tax or an operating levy is expected later this month.
MINERAL RIDGE -- The majority of the Weathersfield Board of Education members say they are leaning toward asking voters to approve an income tax issue to raise $860,000 annually to bail the district out of debt.
The board voted at its reorganizational meeting Wednesday to ask the Ohio Tax Commissioner to estimate both the property tax and a school district income tax rate to raise that amount.
The board expects to decide later this month.
Treasurer Angela Lewis estimated a 1-mill income tax would be needed to generate the funds, and it would take a 9.5-mill property tax levy to generate $859,949 annually.
The district also has applied to the Ohio Department of Education for two grants from the School District Solvency Assistance Fund for fiscal 2004 to cover two shortfalls in income -- a $620,000 tax loss in 2002 after RMI Titanium Inc.'s accountants re-evaluated its personal property taxes for 2002, and a $400,000 to $500,000 refund on taxes the company paid over the past two years.
The tax shortfall has forced the district to make $300,000 in cuts for this school year and the 2003-04 school year.
Looking ahead
Lewis said she also is looking ahead at inflation and other expected cost increases when the board seeks a ballot issue to raise the $860,000.
"Everything isn't staying stagnant; other expenses are going up," the treasurer said.
She noted that if the state does approve the district's grant application, Weathersfield has to be able to prove it will be solvent.
"We are really working our pennies closely and going through some cuts this year," she added.
Board member Dr. Douglas Darnall pointed out some advantages of an income tax.
He said it would provide a broader base than those paying property taxes, and it would protect people on Social Security, survivor's and disability benefits and workers' compensation because those incomes are not taxable.
If an individual's income goes down, their tax liability does, too, he added. If there is an increase in income, the district will see an increase, which is not the case with a property tax, Darnall said.
Gauging public opinion
Both Darnall and board member Bruce Bacak said that the people they have spoken to about the two types of taxes favor the income tax. Only school district residents would pay the tax.
Resident John Vogel of Arbor Drive noted that 75 percent of the school levies failed last November. Nevertheless, he said he would help try to get either measure passed.
Board member Dr. Dominic Pannunzio added, "It's going to be very difficult to get either one passed in these economic times."

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