Northeastern to discuss proposed income tax

Northeastern Local Schools board members will meet Tuesday to discuss placing a 1-percent earned income tax on the August ballot.

The proposed income tax would generate $4.1 million per year in revenue for the school district. Three previous proposed levies have failed and the last operating levy in the district passed in 2004.

The meeting will be held at 7 a.m. Tuesday at Kenton Ridge High School, 4444 Middle Urbana Road.

Before the 2004 levy, the last was in 1995, said Lou Kramer, Northeastern Local Schools District superintendent.

“With one new operating levy passed in almost 20 years, it does make a significant strain on the finances of the district,” he said.

The earned income tax would affect residents who are working and wouldn’t include pensions, retirement, unemployment, interest, rental income and others.

The first resolution for the proposed tax was passed earlier this month and was then sent to the Ohio Department of Taxation for approval. The second resolution must be passed and filed with the state before a May 7 ballot deadline, Kramer said.

Previous income tax requests have failed, but the gap between the no and yes votes has narrowed after each vote.

The district has changed the request for this income tax proposal, limiting the tax to a five year period. After the five years, voters would get to vote again.

If the levy doesn’t pass on the August ballot, Kramer said the same levy, or a similar one, would likely be presented again to voters on the November ballot.

If the levy is passed in either August or November, the district would immediately reinstate transportation for high school students, Kramer said. Then the district would look into other programs or positions that have been reduced in the past and could possibly restore them in the future, he said.

The state of the district’s finances has been one of the main topics of discussion in board meetings, Kramer said. He added that the district has been deficit spending for five years.

“Originally we were expected to be at deficit in fiscal year ‘14, the year that we are currently in, but due to a lot of hard work, a lot of tough choices — a fair number of reductions throughout our staff — we’ve been able to push that back into fiscal year ‘16,” Kramer said.

The district is currently reviewing — but has not finalized — $453,000 of spending reductions for the 2014-15 school year, which Kramer said he hopes would allow the district to push deficit back another year or until they could pass a new operating levy.

The district’s cuts would likely reduce its classified and administrative positions, Kramer said, and cause changes to the services provided to special education students.

The proposed cuts could be before the board for a vote as soon as May, when it would also vote to approve the district’s revised five-year forecast.

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