Graham schools to put earned income tax issue on May ballot

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CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) – Graham Local Schools will be placing a 1 percent earned income tax issue on the May ballot.

This is the Board of Education’s fourth consecutive attempt to secure new operating funds for the district since 2017.

 “We appreciated the turnout and support from many of our community members last November,” stated Board President Ryan Pine. “Since that time, the Board has been actively collecting input and feedback through surveys, focus groups, as well as individual and group meetings. We listened to concerns about the perception of fairness associated with the type of levy, the amount we should ask for, and how we can continue to communicate our needs and expenses. Based on our research and the feedback we received, the Board has decided that it is best to continue building upon our support for an earned income tax.  We will also continue to find creative ways in which we can save taxpayers’ money while improving the educational opportunities for our students.”

Board Vice President Steve Setty shared that, “while we are grateful for the growth of our supporters, we know that there are still a large number of parents and graduates that did not participate in the last election. We intend to continue to reach out to share our need so voters can make an informed decision in May. A 1% earned income tax would generate 2.076 million annually for a 5-year term.”

Officials say the district is still reeling from $1.5 million in cuts made last May that reduced an already-stretched operating budget.

Transportation services and staff were cut by 33 percent. Bus drivers and routes were eliminated, and fifteen staff members lost their jobs.

Additionally, they say fees were increased 40 percent for pay-to-participate activities and 40 for preschool, which affected most of Graham’s 1300 families.

“We have cut and stretched this budget with no additional operating funds during the past 26 years. This is unique and a significant factor in how we arrived at this point in our school history. We must fix our financial situation,” stated Treasurer Judy Geers.

In a release, Graham officials say that residents currently pay the lowest operating tax rate of any other school system in the seven-county area, and even with the passage of a May levy, the Graham community would still pay among the lowest tax rates.

Superintendent Kirk Koennecke said that “continuing to cut and manage finances without new operating funds in this way and expecting high-quality education doesn’t add up. We need to recoup our losses and plan ahead for the future our students face. These funds would allow us to reduce fees raised during this school year for both preschool and activities, reinstate key transportation staff and routes cut, reinstate key aides in buildings, and sustain the hard work of our staff to improve Graham’s achievement over time.”

According to President Pine, “If we fail again in May 2019, our need deepens. The Board would have to return to voters again to seek assistance. This Board is determined to seek new funding now to better Graham’s future. We will continue to share transparently as we move forward with our school community to examine this crucial need for Graham.”

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