COVENTRY TWP.  Voters in the Coventry Local School District will decide on a 1-percent earned income tax issue on Nov. 5.

Issue 7 would collect tax only on those who are working and live in the Coventry School district. Exempted income examples include, but are not limited to, retirement sources, pensions, social security, supplement support income, interests gained and dividends.

Those who live in the district and work in another community with an income tax still have to pay the tax that the community and also Coventry Local Schools. For example, someone living in Coventry Crossing who currently pays 2.5 percent income tax to city of Akron would continue to pay that in addition to 1 percent to Coventry Local Schools. 

Coventry Local Schools Superintendent Lisa Blough said there are several key benefits and reasons for the community to support the issue.

“First and foremost, the funds will be used to support teaching and learning throughout the district,” Blough said. “Over the years, the teachers and staff have worked very hard to meet the educational needs of the students. However, with the district's financial condition, funding has not been available to provide some of the most basic educational necessitates such as updated textbooks, access to technology and rigorous curricular programming.”

Passage of the levy would benefit community members who may be retired or receiving supportive living funds due to disability, Blough said.

There has been some confusion that if the levy passes, all the property tax issues will go away. That is not true.

The district plans to drop one of the nine current levies. If the issue is approved, the district plans to not seek renewal of the 2015 emergency property tax levy. The property tax levy still will collect in 2020, so there will a one year overlap where taxpayers are paying for the 2015 property tax and the earned income tax.

Blough believes the passage of the 1 percent earned income tax is the best opportunity for the district to get out of fiscal emergency.

“One of the main reasons the district remains in fiscal emergency is due to the district's five-year forecast and deficit spending projections,” Blough said. “New revenue must be acquired in order for the district to end the cycle and projections of deficit spending. The earned income tax will provide the district with approximately $600,000 a year in new revenue.” 

She said this will have a positive impact on the five-year forecast and help bring an end to deficit spending.

Community divided

Since the announcement of the earned income tax issue, there have been many people speaking out opposing it on social media. Concerns have been raised this issue lets retires off the hook and puts all the weight on the back of working individuals.

One of those people with concerns is Joel Green, who lives in the school district and works in Green. He said he already pays 2 percent income tax to Green and then would have to pay an additional 1 percent if this issue passes, on top of his property taxes.

“Putting the levy on the backs of the hard-working people isn't the way to handle the district's financial issues," Green said. “A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford that big of increase. Singling out only the working class is dividing the community.”

Green said the school board needs to rethink its agenda because this plan will destroy the district.

The Financial Planning and Supervision Commission in July voted 3-2 to move the issue to the ballot, with several commission members raising concerns about the issue and if it was the best path forward for the district.

Blough acknowledges the issue has created some division in the community but stands by this being the best option to help lead the district out of fiscal emergency.

“Every person has a right to their opinion regarding the proposed tax,” Bough said. “Of course, there are some people not in favor of this income tax. However, the majority of the feedback that I have received, from the community, has been positive and supportive of trying this new tax approach.”

She said when it comes to school funding, schools are in a very difficult position.

“Unfortunately, until Ohio changes the way it funds school districts, the majority of the responsibility falls back on the community taxpayers,” Bough said. “I don't know one person who actually wants to pay more taxes.  However, we must ask ourselves, is this proposed tax in the best interest of our students, the district and our community.”