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Lakewood to seek income tax, renew levy this fall

HEBRON – Lakewood school board members agreed unanimously last Wednesday to put a one-percent earned income tax issue on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Last month, the board passed a resolution declaring the necessity of raising an additional $2,176,000 annually – which, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation, equates to one percent of earned income tax in the Lakewood district.

An earned income tax is different from a traditional income tax because it is based solely on income earned, leaving Social Security and pensions untaxed as an aid to those on fixed incomes. Lakewood is looking at a continuing tax levy, Lakewood Treasurer Glenna Plaisted said.

According to Plaisted, the additional revenue is necessary to offset a roughly $2 million deficitprojected by fiscal year 2010. The board has been discussing the need for additional revenue and researching levy options since winter.

Board President Tim Spitzer said Lakewood has never pursued an income tax. He said the board is considering it now to create a funding “mix … to sustain us.”

“We’re trying to make it as palatable as we can,” said board member Forrest Cooperrider last month. He said he thinks many residents feel an earned income tax is a better option than additional property tax. The earned income tax is one of two issues Lakewood residents will see when they vote on Nov. 6. They will also be asked to approve a renewal of an existing emergency levy for another fiveyear period.

That 5.8 mill emergency levy generates $2,058,646 for Lakewood annually. It is currently being collected at 3.95 mills thanks to increases in the district’s property valuation.

Voters will be asked to renew that levy for another fiveyears. As a renewal, it will continue to raise $2,058,646 a year so the millage or tax rate will continue to decline as property values increase and new improvements are added to the district’s tax base.

However, the actual ballot language will be confusing since it will read as a renewal “plus increase.” There is no increase for property owners but the “increase” language is required for the district to continue to receive “make good” payments from the state to replace funds lost as the state winds down the tangible personal property tax. That tax disappears in 2010.

“We are not asking for any more money (on the levy renewal) than in 2003,” Superintendent Jay Gault emphasized. “There is no increase.”

Plaisted also emphasized that the dollar amount requested from local property owners on the renewal is the same as what was requested in May of 2003.

“This is not extra stuff, not extra money,” said Board member Judy White in July. “Both issues passing would just allow us to continue what we’ve been doing.”

In other business, the school board:

• Approved the purchase of two 71-passenger buses for $136,400 from Center City International, Inc.

• Approved the resignations of Curriculum and Technology Coordinator Elizabeth Spieth and Middle School/High School Vocal Music Teacher Timothy Coffey.

• Approved the employment, by one-year contracts, of Michelle Nixon, eighth grade language arts; Ryan Grubb, vocal music; and Alecia Russell, school psychologist.

• May soon replace stadium lighting at the football field. Superintendent Jay Gault told the board last month that the old cedar poles holding the lights were installed in the early 1970s and are rotting from the inside. Board member Joe Bowman made the motion at that time to proceed with plans to replace, saying, “We can’t just leave it alone – we must address it.” According to Plaisted, Lakewood resident Doug Holt is currently volunteering his time to do engineering specs for the project so the district can put it out to bid.

Lakewood’s school board will meet again in regular session on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school library.

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