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District's funding could take hit

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 11:59 AM

While many voters are asked to consider new school taxes, people in the Plymouth-Shiloh district have two measures to reduce taxes on the ballot.

District officials said the repeal of taxes approved in 1960 and 1991 would cripple the district, but the group that got the repeals on the ballot said it is the only way to make officials accountable to the voters.

Margaret Oney, of Shiloh, said Plymouth-Shiloh Citizens for Accountability and Results in Education (CARE) was formed because residents believed the district should not have continuous taxes. "I think the taxes are OK," she said, "but they are continuous and they should be on (the ballot) every five years."

She said the repeal efforts have nothing to do with the district's move to close down the elementary school in Shiloh and consolidate the district at the site of the new high school and middle school in Plymouth. CARE's Web sitewww.plymouthschooltaxes.com, however, does promise to have information in the future about costs estimates for renovating the Shiloh Elementary and "how they were used to defy the will of the voters."

"I don't want to hurt the school," Oney said. "It will not close the schools down. I think they're trying to use a scare tactic on the people."

Oney said she would approve replacement levies if they were put on the ballot as five-year levies.

Treasurer Brenda Schwamberger said losing the 1-percent income tax approved in 1991 would cost the district at least $700,000, even if a new 1-percent income tax levy were approved next spring.

She explained that the district would lose the income tax funding for all of 2008 because income taxes can not be collected until the year following passage of a levy. She also said the district wouldn't get any money from a new levy until at least the second quarter of 2009.

The second issue on the ballot would reduce a 10-mill tax originally levied in 1960 to one mill. Schwamberger said the decrease would cost the district $70,000 to 80,000 a year and would save the homeowner with a $100,000 house about $27 a year.

"Timing wise isn't as crucial" on that tax, she explained, "because you're collecting on the past year." But she said the loss of income would still hurt the district.

Superintendent James Metcalf said the district has been accountable to the voters since the district has operated without new taxes for 15 years.

The district unsuccessfully sought a 7.9 mill operating levy in 2005.

The district had to go to the voters four times to get renewal for 4.9-mill emergency levy originally passed in 1992. It finally passed last May.

"The income tax has been a savior to us here," Metcalf said. "Luckily, the community and the Board of Education had the foresight to get that on the ballot."

Metcalf said the income tax "has saved the district from going back again and again" for more funding.

"I think there's just a general feeling that people don't want to pay taxes," Metcalf said, and school taxes are among the few that voters get to decide.

"Hopefully, they'll let us keep what we've got," he said.

After Tuesday's election, the Plymouth-Shiloh Board of Education will have two empty seats to fill since nobody ran for either seat. Schwanberger said the board will appoint people to fill those seats. She said anyone interested should contact Tom Miller, president of the board.

Oney said she was not interested in joining on the board and she didn't think anyone else with CARE was either. "I do not want on the school board," she said. "Most people don't want in it because it's such a mess." She said several other people involved with CARE work nights so they couldn't attend meetings.

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