BOARD OF EDUCATION Springfield income tax levy gets a spot on Nov. ballot
School officials opted to seek the income tax rather than impose a property tax.
By VIRGINIA ROSS
NEW MIDDLETOWN -- The Springfield School District Board of Education has agreed to place the 1 percent personal income tax levy on the Nov. 2 general election ballot to fund current operating expenses.
The personal income levy is a renewal of the current levy that will expire at end of the year. In the March primary, residents voted against the renewal.
If passed, the renewal would generate more than $1.2 million each year for five years.
The school board, at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, voted unanimously to place the question on November's ballot. The tax if approved would be effective Jan. 1, 2005.
"One main point we want to stress is that this is not a new levy," said Don Williams, school board president. "This is a renewal of what we've have already had in place. We're not asking residents for anything more. We're asking them for what they've been giving all along. And without it, our school district is will suffer tremendously."
Earlier this year, the school district asked the state tax commissioner to estimate the property tax rate and personal income tax rate that would have to be imposed to generate the $1,243,000 the school district would need.
School officials agreed to focus on renewing the personal income tax levy rather than imposing a property tax rate of 11.11 mills, which, as determined by the state tax commissioner, would produce the same amount of money and nearly double the current property tax rate. The current property tax rate has been in place since 1986.
"We had two choices, two alternatives, but we thought this would be in the best interest of our residents and our school district," explained Ed Sobnosky, district treasurer. "We have cut expenses and made layoffs and done what we can to cut costs. The school district needs this money to continue coming in to continue operating."
The school district implemented the personal income levy in 1991, with it going into effect in 1992. Voters renewed it five years ago. School board members and administrators said they didn't think it would be as difficult as it has been to persuade voters this year to keep it on the books.
"A lot of people were surprised it failed in March," said Debra Mettee, schools superintendent. "It was surprising and very disappointing."
Administrators have said that without the money, the school district could go into fiscal emergency, meaning the state could move in and take control of its operations. Or, the school district could be forced to consolidate with another school district.
Meanwhile, school board members and concerned citizens have been working to convince voters that renewing the levy would be in the best interest of the school district and its students.
"We are proud of Springfield, what the district and our students have accomplished," said Peggy Jones, school board member.
"We would like to see this continue. We would like to give our students the very best education we can. But we can't do this without the support of our residents. We need them to make this all work. We're hoping they decide in favor of Springfield and the students."