We urge Athens City School District residents to vote yes on the district’s income-tax renewal issue on the Nov. 7 ballot. It continues an existing 1.0 percent income tax for another 10 years, providing this mostly well-run school district with secure and predictable funding.
District voters last approved this 1.0 percent tax in 2014, and the renewed tax won’t begin collection until 2019. It covers “earned income” from wages, salary, self-employment income, tips and other compensation. It doesn’t tax so-called “unearned” income such as Social Security or Disability benefits, pensions and annuities, interest and dividends, child support, etc.
The tax levy represents about 12.5 percent of the Athens City School District’s general operating budget, or $4 million annually. It helps pays for day-to-day operations, including teachers, utilities and supplies.
According to School Supt. Tom Gibbs, the tax allows the district to “continue to maintain its current quality of education and provide what the community values such as smaller class sizes, opportunities for students, and high-quality professional development for teachers and staff.”
At the same time, the City School District has taken steps to cut costs, eliminating 13 teaching and other positions in recent years, along with asking staff to pay a greater share of health insurance.
Over the past year, the district has been roiled by debate related to an ongoing planning process for future school buildings. Put simply, one faction would like to preserve the traditionally organized (K-5 or K-6) elementary school buildings in the district, while the other supports converting to grade-specific buildings. Some in the latter group prefer building a new school campus for all elementary students, while others support preserving one or more of the existing schools even if they do convert to specific grades. Some combination of these options, perhaps with sixth grade moving to the middle school, is also possible.
While this is an important discussion with far-reaching consequences for the Athens City School District, it has minimal effect when it comes to the district’s operating budget.
A secure, reliable source of funding will be necessary for educational quality and sound financial operation no matter how the school buildings are organized.
Please consider voting yes on the income-tax levy renewal for the Athens City School District.