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.

* * *


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


S-Corp distributive share profits

Trust and estate distribution

Lottery winnings


Capital gains




@Swiss...First of all, I am NOT associated with the board or school system in any way. Do I agree with everything the board does. No Way!! I express my displeasure with board members if there is something i disagree with.

With that being said, I based my facts on research i have done regarding the board's finances. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that if state finances are cut the amount of money you have to work with is also cut. That has to be made up somewhere. the public has repeatedly told the board no to property tax levies. They, including myself, have told the board to come up with an alternative way to fund education. The state came up with this idea of EIT and I agree with it.

I have researched both taxes. if the property tax were voted on, my tax would go up approximately $315. If the EIT passes, my tax goes up $200. Which way would you want if you were in my shoes. I think you can see why I am for the lesser.

The board has tried to be honest with us and done all the cuts they can do. They are only 2 teachers above state minimum. They can not cut any other teachers and receive state aid.

I only hope that the state never takes over the schools. I din not want the state running any part of Norwalk Schools. i have had relatives living in other towns where the state has taken them over. if you want to hear people complain, wait till that happens.

Norwalk needs more income to avoid this. if you have any ideas, please attend the board meetings and express your ideas. I'm sure the board members would welcome any new and fresh ideas. I have called the board members and expressed some of mine.

I am not trying to be above any of you. I just feel that my feelings are based on research I have done rather than take the board's word for it.

Again, I feel that the EIC is helping my neighbors who are unemployed, retired, on disability who cannot pay the huge property tax. I don't mind paying a little extra to help them out. Someday, it will come back to help me out after I'm retired.


Re: "if you want a property tax rather than the earned income tax,"

A PT increase levy has repeatedly failed.

If this EIT increase abomination were TRUELY fair, only those affected would be permitted to vote on it.

Again: If you wanna donate, give generously. IMO, NCS will not refuse the contribution.


Invest in education now or in rehabilitation later. Either way, the taxpayers get stuck with the bill.


Before I make any comments, let me say that I am NOT affiliated with the school board or school system in ANY way.

I just wish to explain why I am for the EIT. I know that many of you will disagree with me but that is your right.

The public has repeatedly told the board NO on past property tax levies. I have personally told board members that I will NOT vote for any property tax increase but told them to come up with an alternative tax which they have done. As I said before, my property tax would increase by almost $315 but the EIT would only increase by $200.

I would rather see my tax go up $200 rather than $300. I have not had a pay raise from my employer for 9 years and have had my hours reduced because of the Obamacare. Norwalk Schools have not had a pay raise from the public in 22 years since the last levy was passed.

I hate to think of the Janesville employees losing their jobs in the next year and therefore having their income greatly reduced. On top of that, they will have to pay the school income tax on their unemployment which they cannot afford to do.

To help my friends and neighbors from Janesville and other companies who have closed their doors in Norwalk, I am willing to pay a little extra each month so that they will not have to pay any EIT from their unemployment.

I am not asking for praise for doing this. I only feel that it is the right thing for me to do.. Like I said before, my day is coming in which I will be on a fixed income. I only hope that my neighbors would do something like this so that I wouldn't have any tax.

Also, the state has ruled in the past the schools cannot collect any more income than what you vote in. This means that they are still collecting the same amount as the public voted on 22 years ago. If this levy passes, they should not ask us for more for a very long time. If they do, my answer will be NO. (Unless it's for that new building mentioned previously which would help save money by consolidating expenses).

One last thing, if my EIT increases by $200, that is roughly $15 per month, the cost of a pizza. I've been wanting and need to lose weight for some time so maybe I can help the schools and lose by giving up my pizza.


Re: "I can help the schools and lose (weight) by giving up my pizza."

The fallacy: Not every working person wants to give up their pizza.

#2.: You're depriving a local business of income and maybe jobs. Resulting in a potential further loss in local tax revenue.

Pay-to-play? Have more fund raisers.


This school system is largely a pass-through. Due to the lack of local quality employment, the best and the brightest move elsewhere.

Norwalk loses potential new tax payers, while the local demographic becomes poorer and older.

The dynamic is unsustainable.

This earned income tax levy is an intended band-aid on a gaping fiscal wound.


Keystone...Contago was right. By giving up pizza you are depriving a local business of income sand maybe jobs. No matter what you give up, you are going to spend less money on some business. I suggest giving up something you can do without. Examples are some of the extra channels on your cable or dish tv or maybe not go to so many college or NFL games if you are into that.

By the sound of some of the comments on here, there are many who making comments without going to board meetings. Several are asking for more cuts. May I ask...where else can they cut? They are only 2 teachers above state minimum. All employees have taken a pay freeze for the last 4 years and now pay more into their retirement and health insurance.

Building a new school was an excellent idea of saving money. As stated before, it would save half of the administration costs, utility costs, and busing. I also suggest making it k - 8 and closing 5 schools. That would be an enourmous savings.

re: ..... the best and brightest move on...I don't see factories or businesses moving into Norwalk creating any jobs for people to stay and work here. Students going onto college and getting an advanced degree..there aren't many jobs here for them.

Also, as far as the school board buying land across from the high school. Here is another example of not doing your research. The board several years ago purchased the land across from the HS. This was an excellent example of the board trying to save money. They got that land at a far cheaper price than if they had waited till today and tried to buy it. Now all we have to do is convince the public to finance the money to build the new building on that site and start saving money by closing 5 buildings. Contact your board members and supt. if you are in favor of this.

Also, I suggest you get involved rather than complain on here and go to board meetings. Contact board members and make your ideas known. I'm sure they would love to hear your ideas.They have tried the property tax and now the EIT. What other ideas could they try. Oh, I know, how about a bake sale?

hit the road jack

How about all these "bright" students who got their good education in Norwalk send some money back home for the next bunch who would like to move on to a better life?