School board members talk levy

Norwalk City Schools asking voters to OK 1.25-percent earned income tax next month.
Cary Ashby
Oct 19, 2013

 

Norwalk school board members and the superintendent are talking turkey about the levy they hope voters will support on the November ballot.

In July, the board voted 3-2 to go forward with a 1.25-percent earned income tax. There was much discussion among board members, who had to schedule a special meeting after its regular meeting to make a decision. The tax would replace the present, traditional, half-percent tax that has been in place since the early 1990s and would last a "continuing amount of time."

An informational community meeting called "What is happening in our schools?" is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center at Norwalk High School.

"Our levy committee has been targeting retired residents and fixed-income families. We've had numerous levy meetings open to the public and we will continue holding these meetings, hoping our residents will attend and become informed," board member Ralph Ritzenthaler said.

Ritzenthaler wants voters to know this levy isn't a property tax.

"Many residents of our school district agree that the school is in need of additional revenue due to cuts in funding. Residents have asked for an alternative method of taxing -- something other than a property tax," he said.

"The earned income tax will help many folks in our district (who) are struggling, especially retired (residents) or those (who) recently lost their job. Simply put, you are only taxed on earned income, which is wages, salaries and self-employment income," Ritzenthaler said.

For board member Steve Linder, the most important thing voters should know is the levy is based on "earned" income -- not the "traditional" income tax. (See the box for a breakdown of earned vs. unearned income.)

"When this levy passes, this will actually be giving a break to retirees and unemployed workers, due to the 'earned' income tax replacing the current 'traditional' income tax," Linder said.

Superintendent Dennis Doughty said the earned income tax "protects the senior citizen from additional school taxes."

"This alternative was created by the legislature as an alternative-type tax," he said. "Retirement income, workman's comp, unemployment comp and interest income are excluded from the (earned income) tax.

"This is the third try by the board to find a solution to the funding situation in the Norwalk City Schools," the superintendent said.

"There have been many cuts that have taken place in order for the district to survive 21 years since the last local operating funds were approved. In order to maintain our academic programs, there is a need for additional funding. Currently, approximately one-third of the funding per students is supplied through the local funding," Doughty said.

The levy committee has been handing out literature at school functions, open houses, grandparent's breakfasts, PTO Fun Fair. Members also have been distributing yard signs and T-shirts.

"We are just starting our door-to-door campaign to registered voters. It is very important to note that the monies that have been spent on this campaign are coming from the 'Committee to Support the Levy.' John Lendrum's wife Erin is the treasurer if anyone would like to donate money," Linder said.

School officials said there's no doubt the district needs more revenue.

"I think the citizens realize that there is the need for more funding. 1991 is a long time ago," Doughty said.

"The challenge is convincing people that spending money on schools is an investment into the future of our young people. It is a real challenge since there is little discretionary funds available and people have had to tighten their own budgets appreciably," he added.

Board members consider the loss of revenue from the state and continued deficit-spending some of the biggest challenges in passing the levy.

"Our last operating levy passed 22 years ago in 1991. The biggest challenge is getting people to realize that Norwalk City Schools has lost operating funds in excess of $2 million annually since 2008 from the state of Ohio. We are currently in deficit spending and we will soon run out of the money we have in reserves, Linder said.

The district's five-year forecast continues to show deficit spending.

"(That is) even with all the cuts that have been made. We have not had a raise from our voters since 1991," Ritzenthaler said.

He said voters essentially should view passing this levy as the school system asking for a raise from their bosses.

"As families know, their expenses rise and so does ours. When you need a raise, the wage-earner in the family goes to the employer to ask for one. We are going to our boss -- the taxpayer," Ritzenthaler said.

* * *

FOR YOUR INFORMATION:

Earned income (which would be part of the tax) includes:

Wages, salaries and self-employment income

 

Unearned income (which would NOT be part of the tax) includes:

Retirement income

Unemployment compensation

Worker's compensation

Profit from rental activities

Distribution from trusts and estates

Interest

S-Corp distributive share profits

Trust and estate distribution

Lottery winnings

Dividends

Capital gains

Alimony

Comments

2sense

"When this levy passes". You must know something I don't. Good Luck with that.

iwin22

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hit the road jack

Yea,just like the clowns in Monroeville did to their district,get them to pass the income tax then go back and whine they need more money and then get the stoops to pass another levy.

kal-el

Great post HTRJ. Somehow you figured out how to find a woman not only to be the family bread-winner, but also to provide you with 20 kids so you don't pay any income taxes. Little jane's and jon's everywhere.

It's fun to take, take, take, isn't it?

hit the road jack

Damn right,and you better test your kids to see if their really yours!
Take? I would say I have paid many more $ in school taxes than you so you just be a good stooge and vote yes,just don't think everyone else will.
It is not hard to spot the ungrateful public employees is it? and then they wonder why people (taxpayers) have such a bad feeling every year at the ballot box and yes my friend i mean people like YOU!

Contango

Re: "Ritzenthaler wants voters to know this levy isn't a property tax."

No sh*t Sherlock.

For many seniors and others on fixed "unearned" income it's a: "Tax your hard working neighbor" levy and it's unfair.

This perverse convoluted levy reminds me somewhat of the late Louisiana Democratic Senator Russell B. Long's famous phrase:

"Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree!"

ferball14

Pass a levy where only the welfare folk have to pay the tax. Take it right out of their monthly check. Show them what its like to get money taken from them. Why take my money that I work for when most of them get paid to do nothing. At least get something out of them.

oh my oh my

This is a wonderful new tax proposal ! It takes from the hard working underpaid citizens, and fills the pockets of over paid teachers. People can forget enjoying future raises from their employers, because every time they receive a raise the schools will have to get their fair share too. This tax by design will keep people earning stagnant flat wages. There is no cost of living adjustment for school taxes. I VOTE NO WAY !!!!!!!!

KURTje

"When this levy passes."/Linder.

JACKEL

I vote we give it to Iran along with the money Bozo is trying to buy off His Muslim Brothers in Iran by freeing up their frozen assets.Now he thinks we are dumb enough to buy, they are going to scale back their Nuclear Program.

44846GWP

Can we stay on topic...........

somescrewyname

I think home schooling is the answer, why pay someone to indoctrinate our children, when we can teach them at home.

itsnotme

Home schooling doesn't get you out of paying school district tax...

44846GWP

I already voted NO by absentee ballot. They want to more than DOUBLE the tax...crazy. But like always, if it fails they will keep coming back every six months asking us again. They never learn, no means NO.

Uputwhatwhere7

I lost all confidence in the school board after they changed the ages for kindergartners at mid year costing parents another couple thousand dollars sending them to another year of preschool. A bunch of non thinking morons. Quite a few decisions that were made last year left many scratching their heads. Just like the federal government I say fire them all and let's get some people with brains on the board.

keystone

Those of you who are opposed to the levy...Where do you suggest the board find new money. Costs are continually rising to educate our children. Voted Property taxes are limited as to how much they can collect by state law.

Costs are NOT increasing because of teacher's salaries. Teachers and all employess have taken a pay freeze for the last 4 years. Before you say that they receive step increases, over half of the teachers do not receive a step increase.

This tax is the most fair tax there is. Property tax is not equal in that the umemployed, who cannot afford it, pays the same tax for their home as the working who can afford to pay it.

Go ahead and vote no on this, the property tax that they will propose will cost more than the tax on your wages.

Also, I understand that if this passes, the board is considering doing away with the pay to play fee. That will decrease the amount of tax increase a family would pay.

Sarrak

The state of Ohio needs to reduce education salaries across the board adopting either the proposeed Nebraska plan or the proposed Indiana Plan. If and when that occurs there will be no need for new money.
Income tax is the most unfair tax there is because everyone pays something different for the same thing. A fair tax would be a per pupil tax on parents who have children in the school system.

Contango

Re: "Where do you suggest the board find new money."

Send 'em a check and give genenerously.

Contango

Re: "if this passes, the board is considering doing away with the pay to play fee."

Maybe increase fees or eliminate some of the sports and focus on readin', 'riting and 'rithmatic?

When a household has budgetary problems, items that were once thought of as "necessities," quickly become "luxuries" that can no longer be afforded.

Kottage Kat

Thank you

Uputwhatwhere7

Like I have suggested a million times, consolidate the schools into one building. Building a larger updated building would save a lot of money just in the heating bills alone of all of these outdated hundred year old buildings. Not to mention the upkeep of how many different properties and busing, the list goes on. Sell off the properties so the district doesn't have to pay for them. Why can't this be done?

keystone

re: Consolidate into one big building.

Where do you think the money is going to come from to build this new big building? If the people on here are against their taxes going up, how are they going to raise the money for the new building.

Also, there is no way kindergarten through high school should be in the same building. The people of this town went nuts when they moved the 6th grade up to the middle school because they were going to be corrupted by the the 7th and 8th graders. What do you think would happen if we put everyone under one building?

Also, to build a building that large would require an enourmous building and the price tag would be outstanding.

If you have a way of building it cheap and not raise taxes to build it and also not have the parents upset about putting the lower grades in with the high schoolers, i'd be willing to hear it.

Uputwhatwhere7

We already have a rather new high school built within the past 15 years. All of the other buildings are on the average 50-75 years old. Of course there is going to be a cost in building a school but there was an article a couple weeks ago saying that the state would be fronting much of the cost. So do you seriously think it would be better keeping these old outdated buildings and properties or to build one building, sell off the properties and buildings and save on busing costs? Look at western reserve. Two newer buildings, more money saved.

keystone

re: new building for the schools

I aplogize for misunderstanding you. I thought you wanted to build one new building for all grades. I agree with you, one new buiding needs to be built for grades k - 6. I doubt if the public would OK one that had 7th & 8th grade in with the grade school. They tried once before to move the 6th grade up to the middle achool and the parents became upset with it.

One building for grades k - 6 is an excellent idea. Like you said, that would decrease much extra costs. Like you stated and the paper article said, the state would be paying approximately 63% of the costs. My question is, where is the other 37% going to come from. Is the public going to vote on a tax increase for this? By the sounds of some of these blogs, I doubt it.

By your statements, it seems like you are willing to support the new building. I am in favor of a new building. Some cost saving measures would be: Only 2 principlas rather than 4 would be needed, costs savings on utilities and maintenace, busing, to name only a few.

Uputwhatwhere7

I believe the costs would be made up within the first few years of running just in the savings of building maintenance and property upkeep not to mention like you stated the savings of extra positions. I really don't see the difference in 7 and 8 being in the same building personally. I have six kids and all of them in each of the schools so imagine my relief at having to only go to one school to pick them up! It sure would be nice if they could purchase the big field right across from the high school or those 9 acres that are for sale in the woods. The family that owns that property donated it to a church and took it back when the church couldn't do anything wih it. How about donating it to the public school system!

swiss family

I wish the school board would understand, that is seems like a punch to your gut, that the upper level at the school system, collectively taking nearly a quarter of a MILLION dollars, is asking the public , in a highly unemployed area, who are NOT making nearly their salaries, to come up with more money to support them. I know that I will get attacked for that comment, and somehow I will be told that it FOR THE KIDS...but the truth is that it is NOT teachers salaries , that are the problem, BUT the way that I see it, is the fact that the board seems to not acknowledge, and justify, the Salaries and positions of having each school have a Principal, and many have a VICE Principal, and an athletic directer, and guidance counselor etc... Plus not only does the Superintendent, who I think works hard for the district, and earns his money, but then to have a Highly paid VICE Superintendent,seems like not only overkill, but it seems to me that all of these "Vice" positions are what is eating up the budget..

I will be surprised if, when the levy fails, the board will punish the voters by cutting back on busing costs, forcing many families to try to figure out a way to get their kids to and from school, without it interfering with their jobs, Plus they will further implement their "pay to play" policy, again affecting as many families as they can, as a form of punishment. I have a suggestion, school board, instead of "punishing" the voters for being financially responsible, why not use that as an example, and make the real cuts in the budget, that should be made.

keystone

Swiss, I suggest that you attend the next board meeting and voice your concerns. The only way this tax was put on the ballot was because of several concerned citizens voicing their opinion and the board listening to public opinion and what they wanted.

The reason the bigger districts in the state need an asst. supt. is because of all the state mandates put on them by the state. Do I agree with all the mandates...heck no!!! Most of them can be eliminated. Tax payers like you should write, call or go to Columbus and get the legislators to change their educational mandates.

Also, we have to get federal mandates reduced. That is also killing us.

As far as Principal in each building, this is needed especially in these days when discipline is needed to be handled on an hourly basis. You cannot expect teachers or secretaries to handle urgent cases all discipline.

keystone

re: Sarrak

What is this Nebraska or Indiana plan? How does it reduce salaries and how does it NOT increase taxes at any time. Where does the districts get their monies as everyday costs of running the district increases?

How do the teachers ever get a raise if the need for tax increases is not there. I suppose you want every other occupation except teachers to get raises.

I suggest that if these plans are so great, why don't you drive down to Columbus and get the legislators to change to one of these methods. I'm sure they would really appreciate all the extra help and ideas that they could be given.

After all, the courts have ruled property tax illegal and want another way to fund education and would probably appreciate your ideas.

keystone

To those that keep calling for cuts in the budget, here are a few facts to TRY and understand:

1) Norwalk's state funding per student is $2000 under the state average for each student.

2) Norwalk had 200 teachers a few years ago and now have 184. This is only 2 teachers above state minimum. To go below this would result in a farther loss of state money.

3) Even if the number of teachers could be reduced, this would result in larger class sizes and would afect the quality of classroom instruction. To those of you who disagree with, try teaching a class of more than 30 students at one time.

4) There are those saying that each building does not need a guidance counsellor. First of all, elementary buildings now share a guidance counsellor and music and art teachers. We need a separate guidance counsellor for elementary, middle school, and high school. With today;s drug problems and homes with family problems, our students need all the guidance they can get. It would be nice if the parents handled this but unfortunately many don't.

5) I know many of you are against the earned income tax. Let me say, that I have enough concern for my fellow neighbors who are on disability, social security, and unemployment that i feel that this is my way of helping them out. If you want a property tax rather than the earned income tax, stop and look at how much your tax would go up. I guarantee that it would be more than what is proposed on the ballot. I know, I have figured it both ways and I'd rather take the lesser even though it means someone else paying less than me.

swiss family

@keystone.......it seems pretty obvious that you are connected to the school board, or the school system, NOT because of your supposed "facts " that you are sharing, but because of the attitude that you display in places like in your first sentence, where you display what you see as your "Superior" tones where you tell all of us who are so much more dense than you and you ask us to "TRY" to understand what you are talking about.

For you to appear like you are talking down to us is the exact reason why the public does NOT trust you or BELIEVE what you are telling us.You seem to display the arrogance that we get from the school board and the administration, all of the time, and your words and attitude, appears to display your idea that YOU know the perfect way to solve all of our problems, and we, as stupid, uneducated beings, can not make rational decisions or statements because we are ignorant. I will say that WE are NOT ignorant, but you are definitely arrogant..

It is exactly this type of display on your part, where we know that if the tax is not passed, because WE don't know what is good for us, that we can expect, that you, will have to discipline us, to teach us that YOU know all the answers,and you have to teach us a good lesson by cutting the 2 things that will hurt the "uneducated" people, the most.. which is busing, and pay to play for sport.

Maybe , if you could lose your arrogance, and your attitude, and actually be honest and forthright with the people who "foot the bill" for the domain that you are the supreme ruler of,and stop talking "DOWN" to us, maybe , just maybe , the public, although we are so ignorant, we might just approve your demands.Honesty goes a long way, and if we were ever able to actually trust that what you say is the truth , there would be more trust, and less animosity from the public ...in my opinion of course

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