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District will ask voters again to approve revised income tax

MILLERSPORT – Walnut Township Local School District Board of Education members unanimously agreed Jan. 14 to ask voters on May 7 to approve a replacement school district income tax.

The current 1.25 percent school district income tax expires Dec. 31, 2013. The tax raises approximately $1,200,000 a year for operating expenses which represents 18 percent of the district’s annual income.

District voters originally approved the 1.25 percent income tax for 10 years in May 2003. The original tax is levied on most income except Social Security, welfare benefits, disability benefits and child support. Its tax base includes interest, dividends, unemployment compensation, pensions, annuities, capital gains and alimony. The current tax will be collected through 2013.

The replacement income tax would only be assessed on earned income, self-employment income and partnership income. That option only became available in 2006.

Last August, board members unanimously decided to seek a replacement school district income tax that would only be assessed on earned income. That required a higher rate – 1.75 percent – since it is levied on a smaller tax base. Board members wanted to give a break to those on fixed incomes.

The proposal was soundly rejected Nov. 6 by a 1,300 to 794 vote. Superintendent Dale Dickson said after the vote, “We need to ramp up our education efforts (on the revised tax).”

District Treasurer Kirk Grandy said the worst case cost scenario to put the issue on the May 7 ballot is $8,000. That cost will drop if other issues are put before school district voters.

“I think we need to put it on in May,” President Faye Whitaker said.

In other business Jan. 14, Grandy reported, that as expected, the district is spending more this school year than it is receiving in income. The level of deficit spending is about $56,000 more than last year at this time.

Dickson said he first heard about a proposal for adult crossing guards at the Lancaster and Main street intersection from a Beacon story. Millerport Mayor Dean Severance said at the December Village Council meeting that ODOT would be willing to remove the controversial four-way stop at the intersection if the school district would start an adult crossing guard program there.

Dickson said he discussed the issue with Ty Thompson of ODOT who said two options were presented to former Millersport Police Chief John Shirk – stop signs or adult crossing guards for the elementary students using the crosswalk. Thompson said Shirk told him that the crossing guards weren’t an option so the stop signs went up last spring.

“It is a village issue,” Dickson told board members. “We want safe crossings for children…We have a crossing guard (student) program. They are well trained.”

He added that there are a lot of issues with adult crossing guards – training, background checks, substitutes etc. Dickson said the stop signs have made a difference. Some neighbors object to the noise caused by vehicles accelerating after stopping at the intersection. The stop signs affect traffic 24 hours a day when students only use the intersection for about 30 minutes twice a day during the nine-month school year.

Dickson noted that the village hasn’t asked for an adult crossing guard program, suggesting that board members wait until for a specific request.

Dickson also reported that safety procedures have been reviewed after the Newtown tragedy. A list of keyholders has been reviewed and some locks have been changed. Administrators are currently evaluating the costs/benefits of installing a video camera, intercom and a remote control lock at the main entrance to each school. A ballpark estimate is $10,000 per entrance.

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