Tax issues will drive many Mahoning Valley residents more powerfully to the polls next week than any of the most emotionally charged races among multitudes of candidates.
After all, passage or rejection of township and municipal service levies, school levies or community-agency levies have a direct and speedy impact on residents’ pocketbooks. The levies also tend to have a direct and speedy impact on the quality of education, public safety and infrastructure in communities large and small throughout the Valley.
That’s why we urge Mahoning Valley residents to study the needs for road, police, fire and other township and municipal operating levies closely. Voters should balance the severity of the need with the responsiveness and financial management prowess of their community leaders who have made the plea for tax renewals or additional revenue.
SUPPORT FOR SCHOOLS NEEDED
When it comes to tax issues for school operations, we continue to urge voters to seriously consider lending their support. After all, all 45 public school districts in the Mahoning Valley remain hostage to an antiquated and dysfunctional system of state funding to local school systems that has been declared unconstitutional by the state’s highest court.
The state Legislature’s tinkering with that system in recent years generally has brought more harm than good – including an $800 million reduction in state aid in Ohio’s last biennium budget and the removal of the automatic property-tax reduction for senior citizens in the new biennium budget. Making matters worse has been the accelerating exodus of more and more would-be public school students to charter and private schools, egged on by questionable incentives and financial support from state government.
Among those school levies in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, many are renewals, for which we urge yes votes. Here is a rundown of school issues in the Valley on next Tuesday’s ballot that will not increase taxes:
LaBrae: A 3-mill, 5-year renewal permanent improvements levy.
Maplewood: A 5-mill 5-year renewal permanent improvements levy.
Mathews: A 2-mill 5-year renewal current expenses and a 9.25-mill five year renewal for current expenses.
Warren: A 10-mill 10-year renewal levy for emergency expenses.
Weathersfield: A 5.15-mill 10-year renewal emergency levy.
As for additional tax levies, we urge district residents to seriously weigh the needs for the revenue against their own ability to pay. Though many people are still reeling from the lingering effects of the Great Recession, public schools remain a critical cornerstone of a community’s image and quality of life. Districts in the Valley seeking additional revenue include:
Canfield: A 5.9-mill five-year additional levy for current expenses.
Howland: A 3.9-mill 10-year additional emergency levy.
Lordstown: A 5.8 -mill 5-year continuing current expenses levy.
South Range: A 4.8-mill 5-year additional levy for emergency requirements.
West Branch: A 0.75 percent additional income tax for a continuous period of time to meet current expenses.
MAHONING, YOUNGSTOWN ISSUES
The only countywide issue in the Mahoning Valley next week is Issue 1 in Mahoning County. It is a 0.85-mill renewal levy for the Mahoning County Mental Health Board. We urge passage of it — with no additional taxes resulting – so that mental health agencies in our community, including Help Hotline Crisis Center , Turning Point Counseling Services and Meridian Community Care, can provide essential services and withstand ongoing funding cuts from state and federal pipelines.
In Youngstown, voters will face two important charter amendments. As we’ve argued previously in this space, city residents should vote yes on an amendment that would abolish the city’s costly and largely unnecessary Parks and Recreation Commission.
On the issue that has generated the most controversy throughout the Valley, we once again urge city voters to vote no on the so-called Community Bill of Rights charter amendment. It would effectively ban hydraulic fracturing and fracking-related development within city limits.
Though not having a direct impact on residents’ pocketbooks, a yes vote could work to scare off lucrative business development — and an expansion of the corporate tax base — in a city that continues to struggle to recover from three decades of economic discombobulation.
In summary, The Vindicator endorses all renewal school levies on Mahoning Valley ballots, Issue 1 for mental health services in Mahoning County and Youngstown’s charter amendment to abolish the park and recreation commission. We also strongly recommend voters say no to the anti-progress anti-fracking amendment in Youngstown.