Residents will be asked to vote for a fourth time on Tuesday on whether they want income taxes raised to support Graham Local School District. STAFF

Graham schools asking residents to approve income tax increase

Graham Local Schools will ask voters again to pass a 1 percent, additional, earned income tax to help fund the district. The increase would generate about $1.9 million for the district.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Graham Local Schools Superintendent Kirk Koennecke said. “We have worked hard to start a dialogue about our need for this for the past six months, since the election in November.”

Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and will close at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Early voting is underway and ends at 2 p.m. Monday. The Springfield News-Sun will have all the results Tuesday night at SpringfieldNewsSun.com.

Voters rejected the same levy for the third time in November. At that time, voters said no by more than 400 votes, with 55 percent of votes against and 45 for, according to Champaign County Board of Election results.

But that hasn’t stopped officials from trying again.

READ: Graham Local sees consequences of failed levy as school starts

Graham Local Schools was forced to cut about $1.5 million from its budget after voters rejected the same levy in May of last year. The district managed to trim funds by cutting jobs and adding fees, Koennecke said.

Many of the jobs lost were school bus drivers, as transportation costs took one of the biggest hits. Koennecke said previously that meant lengthy bus rides, longer waits and inconvenienced parents. He said some students who had to wake up at 5 a.m. just to catch their bus on the first day of school.

If the levy fails again, Koennecke said more budget cuts will be on the way for the 2019/2020 school year.

“The board has been consistent when it comes to things like this. We have said that we would have to cut another $600,000 from the 2019/2020 school year,” Koennecke said. “We will have to move to the state minimum transportation model, which means less busing services.”

Switching to the state minimum transportation model will mean that students who live within two miles of school and all high school students will have no bus, Koennecke said.

“We have already lost 15 non-essential staff members and had to hold back on hiring more,” Koennecke said. “We will have to continue to cut back across the board.”

READ: Photojournalist shot by deputy settles lawsuit with Clark County

The website, It’s OK to vote NO, says it represents Champaign County residents opposed to the income tax increase, however writers on the site post anonymously.

Koennecke said he doesn’t focus on “negative messages,” regarding the levy vote.

“I don’t give energy to the ‘no,’ voters. I only make sure we are growing our ‘yes,’ voters,” Koennecke said. “We are focused on trying to grow our school community, so we can grow our community. We have been transparent with our voters in order to explain our goal, which is focusing on the school.”

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