Candidates discuss WCHCS income tax levy

By Martin Graham -

Janelle Teeters Mead

Janelle Teeters Mead

Jennifer Lynch

Dennis Garrison

Craig Copas

Leah Foster

As the Tuesday general election approaches, candidates for the Washington Court House City Schools Board of Education recently shared their thoughts on the WCHCS income tax levy coming to the ballot.

In a recent series of questions from the Record-Herald, the five candidates (incumbents Craig Copas and Jennifer Lynch and challengers Janelle Teeters Mead, Dennis Garrison and Leah Foster) explained their thoughts on the 1 percent income tax levy and the financial situation facing the district.

Copas: This levy is absolutely the best option moving forward. Without it cuts will need to be made. I have sat in meetings with (Superintendent) Mr. Tom Bailey, I’ve seen what that looks like and it’s not good. My fear is that all the positive momentum we’ve made in the past three years will be lost and it will be like starting over.

Mead: There is never going to be a good way to tax people – income and property both have issues. Yet no one wants to pay for performance either. It is always a giant circle of someone paying for a service that they don’t receive. Passing a levy is about making sure everyone sees the value they get from their investment – the education of a child you hope will remain in your community as a productive citizen. That being said, in this economy, I think we need to make certain we are living within the means of our community. You can’t overtax the people because then they don’t have the financial resources to support local business. Should the levy not pass, as a member of the board, I would try to find the appropriate balance in our budget to bring needed resources to the right places and make sure the economy of our schools is commensurate with our community. For more than seven years, I worked in a state administrative agency where our budget was cut each and every year. New money was not given for existing programs. That is tough. It means something you have done well before may get cut – but you have to prioritize your most important work. In the ten years I have been on the Board of DD, our revenues have continued to decline and changes to federal reimbursement programs have altered our budget. Those decisions are universally hard – but that’s the challenge of leadership in continuing to deliver resources, even when the choices are hard. On the flip side, if the levy does pass there are also choices that come with new revenues. And while I have never personally experienced that side – I have closely watched the state budget – and new money is also a challenge.

Foster: Unfortunately, looking over financial statements and into the immediate future, an additional source of income is necessary in order to avoid dipping into the reserve funds. With that being said, I believe that re-allocations of funding should be considered and implemented within our budget. We tend to be “top heavy” and take away focus from the roots of our system. Foundation is the key to any “business” and growth or flourishment cannot occur without having solid roots.

Lynch: Yes, I believe that the introduction of new operating funds is the best way to combat the lack of additional state funding or support available to our district. I believe that we need to continue to be fiscally responsible and innovative in our efforts to increase savings and revenue. Long range financial planning will continue to be important so we can maximize our ability to use grant funds when at all possible and to prioritize the needs of the district to ensure the safety and success of our students. Passing the levy on November 5th and continuing our financial planning and monitoring programs is the best plan to secure the financial stability of our district for the long term.

Garrison: I have said “Yes” to the levy. Moving forward additional funding needs will have to be addressed. School boards are fiscal stewards of taxpayer dollars. A levy similar to the one currently on the ballot was rejected by the voters in the last election. Going forward we have to build a consensus between the community and the District that will ensure the passage of a levy. I am prepared to work towards that end.

Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.

Janelle Teeters Mead Teeters Mead

Jennifer Lynch Lynch

Dennis Garrison Garrison

Craig Copas Copas

Leah Foster Foster

By Martin Graham