Greenon Local School District wants voters to pass a combined bond and income tax issue next month that school officials say would steer money back into classrooms and away from expensive temporary fixes of crumbling buildings.
But one couple against the issue —a 4.95-mill new facilities bond and a 0.5 percent earned income tax — said they can’t afford additional taxes.
The May 7 issue seeks a 38-year bond issue to raise $26 million for the district’s share of construction costs for a new 7th through 12th grade school in a funding partnership with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.
Approval of the issue guarantees $13.3 million in state funding to address facility needs and keeps the district’s operating budget in the black, according to Superintendent Dan Bennett.
That would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an estimated $151.59 per year, first due in 2014.
The facilities money would also: renovate Indian Valley Middle School; convert Enon Elementary School into an early childhood center; and enhance instructional spaces like science labs, Vo-Ag classrooms, school safety and energy efficiency, Bennett said.
Combined with the bond issue is a 0.5 percent, five-year earned income tax for operating expenses, which would cost $200 annually for every $40,000 of income, first due in January 2014.
An earned income tax doesn’t tax sources of income like unemployment, pensions, Social Security and interest. Employers would withhold the tax from paychecks in the same manner as they do the state income tax.
Greenon parent Angela Auckerman said she and her husband, Brian, voted no on the last levy and will vote no on the May ballot. Auckerman operates the “Vote NO on issue 21 No new schools for Greenon” Facebook page, which spoke out against the failed levy in November.
“For an example with us, the first paycheck that we got for January of 2013 — and I know everyone’s in the same boat as us — but we were short $60,” Auckerman said. And their medical insurance costs went up $18 per paycheck.
“That put us worse off than we were before with the last levy … So if we couldn’t do it then, we definitely couldn’t do it now,” Auckerman said.
The problem the district has, Bennett said, is that each dollar spent on building repairs means fewer dollars for instruction and student support. It spends about $500,000 annually in repairs at its two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school.
“A new high school and renovated facilities will make better use of our budget,” he said.
A consolidation of students into fewer buildings will happen whether or not the issue passes, officials have said. That’s estimated to save the district $250,000 annually.
It was proposed last year that the district would consolidate students into two new schools if voters passed a similar, but more expensive, ballot issue. Voters declined it by 695 votes.
If the 38-year, 6-mill bond issue on the November ballot had passed, it would have secured $22.5 million in state funding and brought in up to $43 million in local dollars for the new buildings.
“If the (May) levy fails, the logistics of consolidating will become more tricky, but the need will be even greater to cut expenses and find more efficiencies,” Bennett said. “The board has not yet voted on a Plan C, but just about everything will be considered.”
“Combining the (bond and operating expenses issue) into one vote will help avoid the dilemmas other districts have faced by not considering operating costs from the onset,” Bennett said.
Auckerman said she and her husband love the district but can’t afford additional expenses at this time.
“I’ve been asked the question ‘What time is a good time?’ to pass this issue, she said. “And my reply to that would be possibly 10 years ago. I know, ourselves, we made $15,000 more a year 10 years ago.”
“It has nothing to do with how much we love our kids. It has to do with the quality of life at home. And if I don’t have any money to support my children here under their own roof, what good is it wherever they go to school,” Auckerman said.
Bennett countered: “This ballot issue isn’t about whether to address Greenon facilities or not. It’s about deciding if the condition of the schools will be addressed with or without aid from the state.”
The Springfield News-Sun is committed to covering both sides of election issues to help you prepare for the May 7 special election.