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Springfield BOE holds lively tax discussion

Carolynn Mostyn
Suburbanite correspondent

LAKEMORE  The Springfield Local Schools Board of Education, during a Jan. 25 special meeting, approved a resolution to place a 0.75-percent income tax increase on the May 4 primary ballot.

The resolution states it is out of necessity that the district raise more than $2.7 million for school district operations. The tax certification, dated Jan. 15, stated that it would have taken a 6.98-mill levy to order to produce the needed amount through real estate taxes.

The Board must submit the resolution to the Summit County Board of Elections by Feb. 3 for it to appear on the May ballot. 

The tax is for anybody that resides in the district regardless of where they work.

During the board’s discussion prior to the vote, Board Member Dave Hofer said he has received comments about the income tax plan not being well thought out. 

“I disagree with that statement,” said Hofer. “It is something we need. I don’t ask people for money unless there is a need. There is a need,”

Hofer added that the community wanted the Board to come up with something different than a real estate levy. He said he wanted the voters to be mindful that education and schools are a value and solid schools are an attraction for younger families to move into the district. Referring to this tax plan, Hofer said an income tax increase is better for some residents, but worse for others compared the 7.7-mill levy that district voters overwhelmingly defeated in November.

Board Member Chad Lance reiterated that school districts, by law, are allowed to put an income tax on the ballot. He said many communities across the state have done so.

"If it wasn’t legal, it wouldn’t be allowed on the ballot,” he said.

The resolution was prepared by the district’s lawyers with the involvement of the state tax commissioner.

One question asked by a member of the public was how does the state know how much this will raise. Lance said it is an estimate due to the revenue data from income taxes filed from the community.

Board member Mary Lou Dodson said she has been in the district all of her life and that her parents and grandparents sacrificed to build and sustain Springfield Local Schools.

“It is time for the next generation to step up," she said. "I don’t see any other way. I believe honestly we have been so fiscally responsible the last 20 years."

Lance said Board needs to be available and have extra meetings – both virtual and in person.

“There is too much misinformation out there," he said. "We need to put the falsehoods to bed,”

Board President Neal Hess said the more he has researched the income tax, the better he likes this option. He explained that social security will not be taxed.

“Those that can most afford it will be making the most sacrifice and those that can least afford it will be making the least sacrifice," he said. "The schools need it but it is going to benefit most of our community members.”

Residents speak out

Resident Kimberly Pyle commented that people want to know what changes the schools will make, such as what will be eliminated and what would stay, if the levy is defeated,

Ashley Stewart disputed a statement she said Hess made during a previous meeting in which he claimed that everybody in the community can afford to pay for the schools, but most people chose not to. She said that broke her heart and said that for everybody, outside a small number of residents, even a small increase would be difficult.

Hess responded by saying he wants to have some difficult conversations and engage with the community on what education means.

Resident Miranda Terry said her family supports the levy and said the cuts that are looming have a massive impact on education, growth, community and family.

“The superintendent and board are asking for more money, I think that is fair,” she said.

Terry, however, did agree that the district needs to break down the plan as to what will be cut if there is not an increase in funding.

Next step

Chad Lance pointed out that now that the tax increase resolution has been approved, the board and administration will have this discussion as what will be cut and what programs the increase would save. 

“To approve that before we even know if this is going on the ballot is kind of pointless,” said Lance.

Hess said the Board is happy to answer whatever it can and reminded residents of the policy for public comments. For a public meeting, people can go to the district's website, www.springfieldspartans.org, and go to the comments page. Residents can also email to comments@springfieldspartans.org.

In reference to what is to be cut and what stays, Adams said that it is the treasurer's office which comes up with the amount of money needed to be slashed from the budget to satisfy the state. He said the cuts then come after discussions with all the department heads.

He said it is a heartbreaking process.

“You lose sleep over it," Adams said. "You know we have a lot of passionate people in our community and our district and no one wants to see people go. Everyone in the district loses, especially the students.”

Hofer said if the district implemented all the cuts that were brought up, it would be operating as a bare bones district and strictly meeting only the state's minimum requirements. 

Hess said, ultimately, the decisions as to what to cut are up to the board. 

"We agonize, we argue and try to figure it all out to make the best decisions we can," he said. "If there is blame, blame the board whether for good or bad.”

The next regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Feb. 16.