After 28 years without an increase in operating revenue, the Washington Court House City Schools’ (WCHCS) Board of Education is placing a seven-year, 1 percent income tax levy on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.
If the levy passes, it would allow WCHCS to maintain current academic programming for local students as well as temporally eliminating the need to make dramatic cuts to programs and services across the district, according to district officials.
There was a levy on last year’s November election asking for a permanent 1 percent income tax for operating expenses but that levy failed.
In 2005, voters approved a bond to build new buildings which will expire in 2033. That funding was strictly for the use of the construction of the buildings, according to officials. It cannot be used for any operating expenses such as utilities, transportation, salaries and athletics.
“Our buildings are a testament to the commitment the community has had for our schools,” said WCHCS Superintendent Tom Bailey. “We are very thankful for these facilities, as they are one of the main reasons we have been successful at staying off of the ballot for new operating money for so many years.”
“With that said, the buildings are now 10 years old,” he explained. “Major items are beginning to fail. Expenses to repair and replace those things have increased each year over the past decade.”
WCHCS has one of the lowest spending rates per pupil when compared to surrounding districts and similar districts throughout Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Education. Even if the levy passes, this would still be true, officials said.
“We are proud to offer our students the quality education Washington Court House expects while remaining very fiscally conservative,” Bailey said. “We are committed to fostering an excellence of learning in our community while maintaining strict and efficient fiscal stewardship.”
“This levy is simply about paying the bills. In the past 28 years, our expenses have increased with natural inflation, but our revenue from local taxpayers has not,” he explained. “Essentially, it is like we are paying our 2019 electric and water bills with our 1991 paycheck.”
If the levy were to pass, the funds would be used to support the day-to-day operations that the district is responsible for maintaining. This includes paying for utilities (electric, heat and water) as well as facilities, staff and supplies.
Essentially, the funds for this levy would not be going toward construction of new facilities but toward maintaining services to the current ones, according to officials. Although property taxes were examined, the income tax is believed to be the best option.
“Washington Court House City Schools has one of the lowest property assessed values per-pupil in the state of Ohio, sitting at 564 out of 609 schools,” explained Bailey. “Due to this value, it would require a 9.0-mill property tax levy to bring in the same dollar amount as a 1 percent income tax.”
If the levy fails, there will be repercussions, Bailey said.
“We are already operating on a budget that is millions of dollars smaller than all area schools,” Bailey said. “If this levy does not pass, we will begin the process of reducing [spending] through reduction of programs and personnel. This will involve cuts to academics, activities, arts, athletics and transportation at approximately $1 million dollars for the 2020-2021 school year.”
WCHCS will be holding short informational meetings over the next few months for the community. The current meetings are scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 12 and 19 at Belle Aire, Thursday, Sept. 26 at Liberty Hall and Monday, Sept. 30 at Washington Middle School. Times and additional meetings will be announced at a later date.
For more information outside of these meetings, please call the WCHCS Central Office at 740-335-6620 during normal business hours.