SCS seeks support for tax levy

By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — Registered voters in the Sidney City Schools District are being asked to approve an earned income tax levy on the Tuesday, May 4, ballot. The .75% levy — which is for 10 years — will raise $3.3 million for the district if approved.

After three failed attempts at passing a property tax in 2020, the district conducted a survey asking residents which option — income tax or property tax — they would prefer to see on the ballot in May. The results showed residents preferred an income tax over the property tax. Sidney is the only school district in the county that doesn’t have an income tax levy in place.

Superintendent Bob Humble was asked why does the district need the earned income tax levy passed?

“Simply, the district’s expenses are exceeding the revenues and the cash carryover balance (like a savings account) is dwindling. While the district has cut over $5 million in expenses since 2018, the cost to educate students continues to rise and we are not able to sustain our carryover balance,” said Humble.

“Additionally, the district has not received additional local funding for 12 years. The local funding we do have is through property tax levies. HB920 (a law enacted in 1976) basically freezes a district’s collection rate (a dollar amount) on voted millage. So when home values increase, a school district’s millage is reduced and the collection rate remains the same. An earned income tax levy will diversify the district’s revenue sources and has the potential to grow as the local economy grows,” he continued.

“Passing an earned income tax would stabilize the district’s finances for the foreseeable future and potentially keep the district from having to return to voters for additional funds for a long time pending any detrimental state funding changes,” he said.

An earned income tax taxes W-2 wages and income from self-employed individuals. If approved, district residents will pay .75% of their earned income. Most will see a deduction on their paycheck for the tax.

A person with an earned income of $30,000 will pay 62 cents per day or $225 per year on the tax if approved. A person with an income of $50,000 per year will pay $1.03 per day or $375 per year.

It does not tax retirement income, Social Security income, IRA distributions, unemployment compensation, workers compensation, interest royalties, profit from rental activities, lottery winnings distributive shares of profit from corporations, child support, alimony received, distribution from trusts and estates and dividends and capital gains.

The levy will help fund the day-to-day operations of the district, which includes staffing, utilities and supplies.

The district has not seen any new local money since a levy was approved in 2009.

“It has been 12 years since Sidney City Schools received new local monies,” said Humble. “In that time, we have worked diligently to balance costs while maintaining the quality of education our community expects and our students deserve. We have stretched those dollars as far as possible without making cuts that would erode educational quality through several efforts.”

Cuts which have been made include:

• 2010-2015 district-wide staff pay cut and freeze of 2.75% plus increased benefits cost to staff

• 2019-2020 staff reductions through the reconfiguration of the schools totaling $1.26 million in savings annually

• 2020-2021 staff reductions totaling $1.95 million in savings annually

• 2021-2022 staff reductions totaling $2.1 million in savings annually

• Procuring cost-saving contracts for energy, buses, equipment, and supplies through the Southwest Ohio Educational Purchasing Council, a purchasing co-op with other school districts

• Comparing prices from vendors to ensure we are taking advantage of the best prices

• Completing as many maintenance projects as possible which improve energy efficiency for long-term operating savings; by replacing maintenance staff with skilled professionals in HVAC, plumbing, and electrical trades, the district has contracted less with outside service providers

• Shifting some programming costs to be paid with federal grant dollars, thus relieving the general fund even further

Humble explained what will happen if it doesn’t pass.

“We have been able to significantly reduce expenses by making staffing cuts. To date, they have not impacted student programming and services. Should the levy not pass, we will have to look at additional cuts and the board will have to decide if they would like to put another levy this year. Any additional staffing cuts would impact student programming and services,” said Humble.

“Bigger picture, we need a strong school system to continue to have a strong community. Strong and supported schools better position the community for the future,” he said.

Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on May 4. Early voting and absentee voting is currently underway.

By Melanie Speicher

Reach the writer at 947-538-4822.

Reach the writer at 947-538-4822.