BELMONT-The Union Local School District is trying to prepare for the future with an item on the May 6 ballot.
After researching many options for funding streams, board members decided that a five-year, one-half percent income tax would allow them to make necessary improvements and upgrades and not increase financial burdens for residents, specifically the many seniors on fixed incomes who live in the district.
Superintendent Doug Thoburn and Treasurer Janet Hissrich have been meeting with groups to answer questions and make sure people have the correct information. Another open community meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 29 at 6:30 p.m. in the middle school auditorium.
"As we've traveled throughout the Union Local district, it appears that there are some misconceptions and false information floating around," says Thoburn. "I'd like to set the record straight on some of the questions that are coming up."
First, Thoburn begins, the funds will not be used for staff salaries, wages, raises or benefits or for artificial turf on the football field. The money can only go toward designated purchases that qualify under law as permanent improvements having a life-expectancy of at least five years. Eligible items include replacing aging buses, building improvements and upgrading technology and curricula to comply with State requirements.
For instance, currently 11 of Union Local's 17 buses have logged more than 150,000 miles; seven have more than 200,000 miles; 12 are more than 10 years old; two are nearly 20 years old. New buses cost approximately $85,000 each.
Computers average around $450 each, and 70 percent of the district computers are outdated and not able to run necessary software. With more powerful computers and electronic testing, the schools will also need technology upgrades like additional bandwidth. Textbooks average approximately $85 each, and 80 percent of the district's textbooks are eight years or older.
Heating boilers in the buildings are reaching their expected life spans. Replacement will cost Union Local $23,000 each.
The income tax will be paid by individuals who are residents or temporary residents within the Union Local district and earn their incomes from employment, partnership, farms or businesses.
The tax will not be applicable to those residents receiving only Social Security, pensions and retirement benefits, residents receiving only oil and gas lease and royalty payments who are without earned income and unemployed residents receiving unemployment benefits. It does not affect interest or dividend income.
It will apply to renters as well as homeowners, but has nothing to do with and will not affect property taxes. It will appear as a payroll deduction by the employer from Jan. 1, 2015 through Dec. 31, 2019.
Thoburn notes that someone earning $400 per week will pay $2 per week for the tax. Someone who earns $7.95 per hour for 40 hours per week will pay $1.59 for the tax each week, less than the cost of one cup of coffee at many places. He adds that the cost is minimal but will have a major, positive impact on "providing students with basic needs and more educational opportunities."
For more information, contact Hissrich or Thoburn at (740) 782-1978, or talk with Union Local Board of Education members Dean Lancaster, Ed Stenger, Terry Puperi, Danny Lucas or William Porter.
Valenti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.