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Schools see big tax decline

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At the Aug. 13 Yellow Springs Board of Education meeting, District Treasurer Joy Kitzmiller announced a steep decline in this year’s second quarter income tax revenues.

The April–June quarter income tax receipt payments to the district are down 35 percent from last year, Kitzmiller said.

“I was stunned,” Kitzmiller said in an interview this week. In the first quarter of 2009, income tax revenues to the district had declined by 4 percent.

Yellow Springs schools face the deepest income tax collection loss in Greene County, according to Kitzmiller, who estimated Cedar Cliff schools had a 7 percent decline, and Xenia schools had a 5 percent decline from last year’s collections.

According to Kitzmiller, this July payment is thought to be a major indicator of how districts have been affected by recession-related job loss, since it reflects April tax returns. Unlike the Village income tax revenues, the school district revenues are collected from all those who live in the village, rather than those who work here.

“It indicates we’ve had some job loss” — or at least a decline in the amount of work and earnings — for those who live in Yellow Springs, she said.

State tax analysts had forecasted up to 40 percent losses in districts that have seen significant manufacturing and automobile related job loss, Kitzmiller said.

While not every district collects income tax, in Yellow Springs income tax payments represent about 20 percent of the district’s entire revenue stream. This payment is $218,792 less than last year’s July payment, marking a 5 percent decrease in the 2009–2010 revenue stream.

“If the trend continues throughout this fiscal year, we could lose a half million dollars this fiscal year alone,” Kitzmiller said, because income tax receipts are paid to the district quarterly. Income tax payments this low could result in a decline of more than $796,388 in revenues over the course of the five-year budget.

The district’s five-year budget had already forecast a deficit for the next four out of five years, ending with a negative cash balance in the fifth. The budget, approved in May with a 3–2 vote, had anticipated a 15 percent recession-related decline in income tax payments. for the 2009–2010 school year

However, revenues to the district from property tax collections are expected to remain similar to last year’s payment, according to Kitzmiller, as property values have neither significantly increased nor decreased from last year, according to the August real estate tax settlement from the county auditor.

Also, tangible personal property taxes, which the state had planned to begin collecting at lower rates, have been maintained at current levels in the Ohio budget, according to Kitzmiller, a change which adds an unexpected $417,053 to the revenue stream over the next five years, she said.

In other school board business:

• Board members discussed the need to create awareness in the community about increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic in the before-school and after-school periods.

“I’m more concerned with educating our own community — not the kids — about slowing down and being more aware,” board member Angela Wright said. “There are going to be more kids out on the street, walking and biking.”

Tony Armocida, retired superintendent who has returned for a one-year interim position, has met with Chief of Police John Grote. Grote had concerns about pedestrian traffic in a few key areas, all of which are within the .5 mile radius around Mills Lawn that was already a walk zone, Armocida noted. These areas are Elm, Dayton, and Limestone Street, which has no sidewalks.

“We discussed some ideas,” Armocida said, including getting parents to alternate walking with groups of younger children, and working through the PTO to get volunteers posted at intersections that present concern.

Board member Anne Erickson encouraged administrators and the community to see reduced bus service as a step towards health awareness for village youth.

“The whole idea of doing this is not just for us to save money. It really is a green movement,” she said. “The idea is for kids to become more fit, and to get used to using their feet to get where they want to get.” (See page 6 for walking and biking safety tips.)

• Bus routes were approved for the 2009–2010 school year. Contrary to information printed in the News last week, the district will in fact run two normal busses this year, plus a third bus that covers the Greene County Career Center route. In years past, the district ran four buses concurrently, but with the implementation of the transportation policy, will now operate a total of three. Bus routes are included in the enclosed school supplement.

• Communication between board members became tense during the second reading for a new policy which states that, under certain circumstances, the district will pay for a second assessment of a special education student when the first assessment, conducted by the school, is challenged. The discussion was the most significant example of tension between board members in recent meetings.

Wright questioned approving a policy that identifies dollar amount figures, stating she would be more comfortable passing a policy that uses “reasonable and customary rates prevailing,” language typically seen in policy.

“It is very unusual to have dollar amounts in a policy,” she said.

Armocida also thought it unusual to see dollar amounts in a policy, but said that if board members felt comfortable with the cost survey that arrived at those numbers, they could proceed with the policy as written. However, he noted, they would obligate themselves to reconsider the policy annually and make amendments as necessary.

According to Board President Aida Merhemic, the second reading of the policy might not be the best time to raise questions of this nature. Rather, she said, Wright should have taken her concerns to former superintendent Norm Glismann.

Wright countered that she was raising the same concerns she raised at the last board meeting, which was the first reading of the policy.

Other board members favored proceeding with the policy as written. The policy passed 3–1, with Wright voting no. Richard Lapedes was not present.

While this was the only policy passed at the meeting, the board has unanimously passed the first reading of policies in bulk over the last six months, with members often acknowledging that they have not had an opportunity to read the policies prior to the first reading.

• Kitzmiller withdrew her previous recommendation to approve a resolution to proceed with submission for a renewal tax levy in the amount of $1,060,000 each year for five years, due to the recent income tax decline.

The district is entering a state audit process that will rank the district’s costs against those of other districts throughout the state, and the district “should go back to the drawing board,” according to Armocida.

Because of the district’s guiding values, which emphasize music and the arts, Armocida expects the audit will rank the district as one with high costs. However, he said, the audit will allow the schools to go back to the public with a more exact explanation of how the levy amount was conceptualized, and how it will enable the district to balance programming values with financial constraints.

“You have to figure out what’s important, and you have to figure out how to pay for it,” he said.

• The board will convene for a special meeting on Aug. 27, at 7 p.m., to discuss, and possibly vote upon, a contractor for capital improvements to the high school and Mills Lawn.

The improvements would not be financed by the district general fund budget, but rather from carried-over permanent improvement funds from the last school levy, Kitzmiller said.

• The next regularly scheduled board meeting will take place Sept. 10.

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