We fully support the effort by Alexander Local School District to gain more local tax support at the ballot box on May 8. This school district, which teaches students in southwest Athens County and part of Meigs County, has been operating with virtually no increases in state or local funding for the past 10 years.
Of course, a wide range of costs to the district have been increasing during that period. This has resulted in deep cuts in staff positions.
The measure on the ballot is for a 1 percent “traditional” income tax on a wider base of Alexander residents than was proposed in the general election last November. 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 anybody, really) 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 making do with less – much less – with no increases in state or local funding to keep up with rising costs. Since 2008, Alex has cut staff by not replacing teachers and staff who retire or resign. This has saved $10 million while resulting 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.
And make no mistake, the black and white reality is that without a boost in local funding, more cutbacks 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 no help expected from the Ohio General Assembly, it’s up to the residents of Alexander Local School District 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.
Without reservation, we urge voters in Alexander to vote yes on the school tax issue.