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Some districts use income taxes, calling it more fair



Published: Mon, October 25, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



The income tax has benefits for senior citizens, officials say.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

NEW MIDDLETOWN -- The philosophy behind taxes in the Springfield Local School District sounds simple when explained by district Treasurer Ed Sobnosky.

"If you're a resident, you should pay taxes. If you lose your job, you shouldn't have to pay it," he said.

But that philosophy sets Springfield apart when it comes to school taxes in the Mahoning Valley. In most communities, the amount of school taxes paid by residents doesn't change based on whether they have a job.

Instead, because most districts rely on property taxes for all their local funding, school taxes fluctuate with the value of property owned by a resident. A resident could lose his or her job and still be paying more for schools if property values increase.

The Springfield district, however, gets some of its funding from a 1-percent income tax. Residents with higher incomes pay more to the schools; residents who make less pay less.

Only four school districts in the Valley have an income tax. The others are the Columbiana, Crestview and United districts, all in Columbiana County. Each of the districts also collects property taxes.

Amount varies

The amount of property taxes paid by residents of each district, however, is equal to about 20 mills. That's the minimum number of mills a district can charge and still receive state funding.

Income taxes in the Columbiana, Crestview and United districts were approved by voters to be collected indefinitely. The Springfield schools are asking voters to renew their income tax for five years Nov. 2.

"An income tax allows a district to grow as the economy grows," said Crestview Superintendent John Dilling. "It's fair to everyone, because everyone's paying their fair share."

United Superintendent Tom Davis added that the income tax also ties the budget of the school district to the economic status of the community.

"In tough economic times, the school districts are going to have to tighten their belt," Davis said.

Springfield and Columbiana officials said they each collect about $1.2 million annually through their respective income taxes, school officials said. That's the same amount of money that would be collected on 11 mills of property taxes in the Springfield district and 8 mills in the Columbiana district.

Crestview officials collect about $750,000 annually through their income tax, equivalent to 12 mills of property tax. United officials collect about $480,000, which equals about 8.5 mills of property tax.

Difference

Sobnosky noted that school income taxes are different from those charged by municipalities like Youngstown. Municipal income taxes are charged to those who work in the municipality, he said.

So Austintown residents who work in Youngstown pay Youngstown's income tax, for example.

School district income taxes are paid by the district residents only.

So a Springfield resident who works in Lordstown would pay the Springfield school income tax and the Lordstown village income tax. A Lordstown resident who works in New Middletown, in the Springfield district, would not pay the Springfield tax, Sobnosky said.

Sobnosky also said the income tax also has benefits for senior citizens when compared with property taxes, as under state regulations, Social Security is not taxed and a portion of a pension can be sheltered from the tax.

That is not the case with property taxes.

hill@vindy.com




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