We’re hoping that “five’s the charm” in the Alexander Local School District’s campaign to persuade the rural district’s voters to support a 1 percent income-tax levy on the Nov. 6 ballot.
This will be the district’s fifth income-tax levy attempt in the past few years, with each one going down in defeat. The present version is essentially the same as the 1 percent traditional income-tax levy that failed by 54 votes in the primary election last May. The five-year operating levy will raise around $2.1 million annually.
The facts remain the same. This school district, which teaches students in southwest Athens County and small parts of Meigs and Vinton counties, has been operating with virtually no increases in state funding for the past nine years. In fact, the state of Ohio has reduced funding for Alexander by $2.2 million since 2009, according to school officials.
Meanwhile, Alexander hasn’t passed an operating levy for additional funds in the past 26 years.
Of course, a wide range of costs to the district have increased steadily duing this time. This has resulted in deep cuts in staff and programing.
Alexander Supt. Lindy Douglas said in January that the School District cut its budget by $600,000 in 2017. Until voters pass an operating levy, the revenue flow from the state isn’t likely to get any better, and further cuts will be on the table.
Like the attempted levy last May, the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot is for a 1 percent “traditional” income tax on a wider base of Alexander residents than was proposed in the general election a year ago. That failed effort was a 1.25 percent tax on earned income, exempting various types of non-wage income. Alexander voters also shot down an earned-income tax of 1.5 percent a year ago.
With the broader tax base, the sought-after 1 percent tax in the May 8 primary will raise as much as 1.25 percent with an earned-income tax, and do so with less money needed from individual taxpayers.
Many citizens are skeptical any time a local school district (or any taxing authority) requests more money from taxpayers. They often wonder why the district can’t tighten its belt the way many families must during tough economic times.
Yet, Alexander Local School District has been getting by with less – a lot less – with no increases in state or local funding to keep up with rising costs. Since 2008, as of the May levy attempt, Alex has slashed personnel by not replacing teachers and staff who retire or resign. This resulted in the loss of 18 teaching and 14 staff positions.
That represents significant erosion in the human resources essential to a school district’s core mission – educating its young people. While school officials and supporters maintain that educational quality somehow has been maintained in spite of these deep cuts, it’s easy to see how any further cuts will erode the district’s educational effectiveness.
The stark reality is that with no increase in local funding, more cuts will be necessary. Educational goals such as reasonable class sizes, modern curriculum choices to meet the needs of different students in our modern society, and essential non-classroom services – all of these things will be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.
Money from the income tax will go toward yearly operating expenses – fuel, food, busing, staff, maintenance, repairs, books and equipment, among other things.
With the Ohio General Assembly not expected to step up to bat, the residents of Alexander Local School District have a responsibility to make sure that the district’s children continue to receive an adequate and quality education. Without more revenue, that’s going to be very difficult for the district to deliver.
This is essentially the same argument we made last May for the same levy. Hell, we’re even using some of the same wording as the endorsement we ran at that time. It was a compelling argument then, and it remains so today.
With no hesitation, we urge voters in Alexander Local School District to vote yes on the school tax issue.