We urge voters in the Alexander Local School District to support children in this rural district on May 7 by voting for a five-year 1 percent income-tax levy for operations.
If this levy fails at the polls, as have five similar levies in Alexander in the past few years, it’s difficult not to conclude that a majority of voting taxpayers in the school district will accept that their neighbors’ children are attending substandard schools, while having less community support than those voters had when they were in school.
You can spin it any way you like, pull out whatever rationale you like, but declining schools are the inevitable result of starving a school district of operating funds.
The current levy attempt, if successful, will tax earned incomes with the important exception of Social Security, disability, workers’ compensation, survivor benefits, child support, retirement pensions, IRA distributions, annuities, social security benefits, disability and survivor benefits, capital gains, interest and dividends. To be clear, NONE of those exceptions would be taxed. It would go into effect at the start of 2020 and raise around $1.6 million annually.
If the following sounds familiar, there’s an easy answer. We and other supporters of Alexander Local Schools have been advancing the same arguments for the last three years. The facts haven’t changed; they’ve just become more urgent as state revenues continue their long-term decline.
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 more than $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.
Not surprisingly, a wide range of costs to the school district have increased steadily during this time. This has resulted in deep cuts in staff and programing.
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, 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 and support positions that are essential to a school district’s core mission – educating and enlightening 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.
Meanwhile, injecting badly needed revenue into the school district will relieve pressure on teachers – who are working long hours both in the schools and their homes – from having to spend their own money on supplies, and having to expend time and energy finding up-to-date materials to supplement increasingly outdated textbooks.
If this levy passes, the district plans to drop the participation fees students and their families have to pay for extracurricular activities. These $40 fees unfairly burden kids from less prosperous households, as well as forcing parents to contribute even more for their children’s participation in the form of donations, meals and the like.
Money from the income tax will go toward yearly operating expenses – fuel, food, busing, staff, maintenance, repairs, books and equipment, among other things. All of these expenses have direct links to educational quality.
School officials also have predicted that with no new revenues, Alexander is looking at a potential deficit of $1.5 million in three years, and that’s even counting an expected bump in annual revenues of $624,000 from Texas Eastern pipeline property taxes.
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’ve been making twice a year for each of the past five levies.
We strongly urge Alexander voters to add their voices to others who are supporting what historically has been a well-run, quality school district. Vote yes on the Alexander income tax levy.