Voters approve 69 percent of school tax issues

Staff report

COLUMBUS — Voters across Ohio approved 121 of 175 public school district tax issues during the Nov. 6 general election for a passage rate of 69 percent. This represented a decrease from the 2017 general election when Ohio voters approved 89 of 122 school tax issues in November 2017 for a passage rate of 73 percent.

Of 94 new school tax issues proposed on Tuesday, 43 were approved for a passage rate of 46 percent. This is a decrease from the 2017 general election when 51 percent of new tax issues passed.

Graham Local Schools’ third try for a one percent earned income tax was among those new tax attempts that failed on Tuesday. According to the Ohio School Boards Association, 16 of the new tax issues were income tax requests. Of those, five passed. OSBA was not able to distinguish traditional income tax proposals from earned income tax proposals in its analysis on Tuesday.

According to the Ohio Department of Taxation, an “earned income” school district is any school district whose voters have approved a school district income tax that applies only to earned income, such as wages and self-employment earnings. Unlike a traditional school district income tax, the “earned income” school district income tax excludes interest, dividends, capital gains, pensions, rental income, lottery winnings and income earned by estates.

Voters approved 78 of 81 renewal school tax issues on Tuesday’s ballot, a 96 percent passage rate. This is a slight increase from the 2017 general election when voters approved 90 percent of the renewal issues.

Triad Local Schools’ 0.5 percent income tax renewal was among those approved on Tuesday. According to the Ohio Department of Taxation, Triad’s was a traditional income tax.

Although not on the ballot Tuesday, West Liberty-Salem and Mechanicsburg also have traditional income taxes as a source of funding for their districts.

Faced with ongoing fiscal challenges, including increasing expenses, an uncertain state funding formula and funds being diverted to charter schools and vouchers, many school districts are being forced to rely more and more on their local communities for support, according to a prepared statement from the Ohio School Boards Association.

Districts that were unsuccessful on the ballot Tuesday likely will have to make difficult budget decisions, including new rounds of cuts.

According to a statement released by Graham Superintendent Kirk Koennecke on Tuesday after the election results were posted, “The proposed levy would have allowed the district to restore lost services from last May, reduce fees imposed for activities and preschool, and hire back key bus drivers and aides to add back some services lost after May’s narrow defeat. Now the district will cut an additional $600,000, raise student fees for 2019-20, and reduce operating budgets and services even further, including limiting transportation to the state minimum for 2019-2020. As for what is next, the district and board will take some time to review the results and to plan next steps to further engage the community.”

Staff report