Breakdown Of Proposed St. Marys Income Tax

Staff Writer

It’s no secret that St. Marys City Schools will again ask the voters to approve an earned income tax levy to generate funds for operating costs in the upcoming general election on Nov. 6. It should also be no secret exactly what taxpayers are considering when they enter the voting booth and what it will mean for the school district.
In May, the district presented voters with a 1.5 percent earned income tax levy for the same purpose but that levy was voted down. Now the district has come back with a 1 percent earned income tax and have made $800,000 in money-saving cuts to programs, staff and services.
The schools have stated a need for the new operating funds to add to the current property tax to make up for the rise in expenses for teachers, programs and services. The majority of the schools’ expenses go to salaries, wages and benefits for teachers and staff.
In a breakdown provided by St. Marys School Board Treasurer Robin Laman and Superindent Bill Ruane for the general fund expenditures for the fiscal year 2018, salaries and wages accounted for 54 percent of expenses for the district. Benefits — such as health and life insurance — amounted for 22 percent while purchased services totaled 19 percent. Purchased services, according to Laman and Ruane, include items such as utilities, occupational therapy, special education units, fuel for transportation, property insurance and computers. Another purchased service the district pays for is a contract with the St. Marys Police Department to provide the school resource officer, Randy Allemeier.
The remaining 5 percent of the general fund was split between supplies — paper, pencils, textbooks, etc. — and other expenditures which cover miscellaneous expenses not covered by other funds like the permanent improvement fund, technology fund, etc.
With regards to the district’s income from the property tax, though property owners send the majority of their taxes to the school district, the income from the property tax accounts for only 32 percent of the general fund income for the district.
“Yes, we do get the majority of a person’s property tax,” Laman said. “Keep in mind, though, that money gets split up into different funds like the permanent improvement fund, the general fund and paying for the bonds that pay off our debt for this beautiful school building. We’ve paid 10 years on it and we have another 18 left to go.”
It was suggested by community members after the previous earned income tax levy failed that the district asked voters for a new property tax in lieu of the earned income tax but Laman said asking for new money via a property tax would wind up costing the taxpayers more and would put even more of a burden on property owners.
With the current, $1.8 million emergency tax levy, the district gets a portion of that money — 5 percent of the general fund revenue for the past fiscal year — paid for by the state through rollback and homestead funds, Laman mentioned.
As part of the property tax, just over half of the school’s operating funds (51 percent) comes from the state but Ruane noted that is not enough to cover the expenses since it is a fixed income.
An added benefit to an earned income tax, Ruane and Laman stated, is that the tax allows the district’s income to grow with the economy. Conversely, if the economy dips, so does the school’s income.
The thought of asking for additional funds from all working taxpayers is not a new concept for school districts. St. Marys City Schools is the only district in Auglaize County not collecting an income tax and joins two schools — Marion Local and St. Henry — in Mercer County as the only ones to not collect an income tax. Additionally, of the 20 socioeconomically most similar districts to St. Marys, 12 — including Wapakoneta, Celina, Kenton and Van Wert — have an income tax of some kind. The Ohio Department of Education uses the 20-most similar districts formula to generate a comparison of other districts across the state that are most like the district being evaluated. The nine comparison categories include the number of students, poverty percentage, agricultural property percentage and minority students.
“Out of the 20-most similar districts, 13 receive more local revenue, 10 get more state revenue, 15 receive more federal revenue and 17 receive more total revenue than we do,” Ruane said. “The big thing is though, none of them out-performed St. Marys on the performance index rating from state testing. We’re taking in less than most, but our students are testing the best of them all.”
To find more information on the school district’s finances, contact Laman or Ruane by calling the district at 419-394-4323 or visit the administrative offices in the high school/middle school building at 2250 state Route 66 North. Information on the 20-most similar districts can be found on the ODE website, WebApp2.ODE.State.OH.US/similar_districts.