SIDNEY – Voters approved levies for both the Sidney City School District and the Houston Joint Ambulance District during Tuesday’s special election, according to unofficial results.
The Sidney levy passed with 2,102 votes in favor of the levy, 57.45%, and 1,557 votes against, 42.55%.
The Houston levy passed with 296 in favor of the levy, 75.13%, and 98 votes against, 24.87%.
Voters approved a 0.75% earned income tax levy for the purpose of current Sidney City School District expenses. The levy will raise $3.3 million annually for the district over the next 10 years.
The levy will help fund the day-to-day operations of the district, which includes staffing, utilities and supplies.
“We’re thrilled,” Sidney City Schools Superintendent Bob Humble said. “We’re thrilled. It’s fantastic that we can finally move on.”
The Sidney City School District, which has cut $5 million in expenses since 2018, unsuccessfully tried to pass a property tax levy three times in 2020. After surveying the community, the district decided to pursue an income tax levy this year.
Sidney was the only school district in Shelby County that didn’t have an income tax levy. The district had not received additional local funding for 12 years, last approving a school levy in 2009.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Humble said. “We are just thrilled. Now we can finally get back to educating kids.”
An earned income tax taxes W-2 wages and income from self-employed individuals. District residents will pay 0.75% of their earned income.
With the earned income tax, a person with an earned income of $30,000 will pay 62 cents per day or $225 per year. A person with an income of $50,000 per year will pay $1.03 per day or $375 per year.
Earned income taxes do 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 earned income tax levy will diversify the district’s revenue sources and has the potential to grow as the local economy grows, Humble said.
Humble thanked Tiffany Rank, Greg Dickman, Josh Ross, Mick Given, Jim Hill and all the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership, Tim Hamilton, Kevin Turner, Mike Keiser and everyone else who helped.
Voters approved a two mill property tax levy for the purpose of providing, maintaining and operating emergency medical services within the Houston Joint Ambulance District.
“I’m just happy,” Board President Kim Vondenhuevel said. “I am relieved. I’m so relieved. Now we know we’re going to get a squad. I’m just happy, but I was so scared.”
The additional levy will cost taxpayers 20 cents for each $100 of valuation for the next five years, beginning in 2022. For the owner of a house valued at $100,000, the levy will cost an additional $200 a year in taxes.
The Houston Joint Ambulance District will provide EMS coverage within portions of Loramie and Washington townships, including the villages of Houston and Lockington.
The Houston Joint Ambulance District board sought the property tax levy as a result of an inability to respond to numerous emergencies in recent years because of staffing shortages.
Vondenhuevel said in the past Houston Rescue primarily operated with volunteers. However, as of December 2020, it was down to two active squad members.
As a result of declining volunteer numbers, the portions of Cynthian and Turtle Creek townships that had been covered by Houston Rescue were turned over to Fort Loramie EMS on Jan. 1, 2020.
In 2020, neighboring jurisdictions such as Fort Loramie and Sidney covered more than 40% of the EMS calls initially received by Houston Rescue. They then canceled mutual aid agreements with Houston Rescue as a result of the extra burden.
In late December, members the Houston Joint Ambulance District board entered into a one-year agreement with Spirit EMS to handle calls as of Jan. 1, 2021. Spirit EMS is covering the territory east of state Route 48 while the west side is covered by Versailles EMS.
Spirit EMS has formed a management group to oversee Houston Rescue Inc., so the ambulances can respond from the squad house on Russia-Houston Road. Prior to that, Spirit responded from the its station located at the Fair Haven Shelby County Home on Fair Road.
With the passage of the levy, Spirit will help keep Houston Rescue running and provide employees until enough part-time workers can be hired to staff the ambulances 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We’re very, very thankful for the voters,” Spirit President/CEO Brian Hathaway said. “There’s been a lot of hard work that’s went in by the Friends of Houston Rescue committee.”
Of the 18,806 registered voters, 4,056 cast votes in the special election, which is 21.57%.
Results will be certified May 17.
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