JA takes steps toward income tax

Jane Beathard Staff Writer

December 11, 2013

Voters in the Jonathan Alder Local School District can expect to see a proposed .05 percent income tax increase on the May 2014 ballot, following action by the board of education on Monday, Dec. 9.

Board members approved a resolution that sends the proposed increase to the Ohio Department of Taxation for a required review. Approval of final ballot language will likely come at the school board’s Jan. 13 meeting.

Deadline for filing appropriate paperwork with the Madison County Board of Elections is Feb. 5.

A .05 percent increase to the existing .75 percent district income tax will generate an estimated $1,325,000 in additional money annually and relieve Alder’s current budget crunch, according to treasurer Aaron Johnson.

Financial problems surfaced in spring 2013 when revenue projections for the district were miscalculated. As a result, former treasurer Janis Thom lost her job. Johnson, the treasurer of neighboring Fairbanks Local Schools, was hired to replace Thom.

Administrators cut 16 teaching and support positions in May to reduce overall spending by 7 percent — about $1 million — for the 2013-14 school year, according to a district perspective.

On Monday, Superintendent Gary Chapman said impacts of those cuts mean students have fewer opportunities, limited accessibility and restricted flexibility.

Classes are bigger and elective courses such as music, art and physical education are fewer. Tutoring and guidance services are limited, as are after-school enrichment and intervention programs.

“More students in study halls equal less instruction,” Chapman said.

District-wide cuts in technology programs led to delays in teaching support and reduced student access. Monroe Elementary, Jonathan Alder Junior High School and Jonathan Alder High School buildings continue to operate without Wi-Fi. A Straight A Fund grant applications to put Wi-Fi in those schools was recently denied by the state, Chapman said.

Also on Monday, board members delayed hiring Fallon Research & Communications, Inc. to conduct a community opinion survey in advance of the May election.

Board member Tom Bichsel said he could not approve spending up to $10,000 for the survey, considering current district financial woes.

“I cannot go along with spending this kind of money at this time,” Bichsel said.

He suggested posting a survey form on the district website or canvassing community members via mail.

Member Steve Votaw said a Fallon survey would supply broad, research-based data.

“We need to know more than what parents think,” Votaw said in reference to the district’s tri-annual survey of staff, students and parents.

Member Shannon Foust wanted more information about survey objectives before voting on the issue.

“We need more information as to what we are trying to measure,” Foust said.

In other meeting action on Monday, board members:

• Accepted a $2,093 donation from the Mike Furrey Foundation for an additional soccer goal at Plain City Elementary School.

• Accepted an $1,800 donation from Honda of America for digital social studies textbooks for students in fourth and eighth grades.

• Approved Horace Mann Insurance Company as a provider of 403B accounts for district employees. The accounts are pre-tax contributions and involve no employer match.