LEVY MEETING … Attendees sit and listen as the meeting begins for a discussion regarding the tax levy being asked for by Wauseon Schools. (PHOTO BY JACOB KESSLER, STAFF)
By: Jacob Kessler
The Wauseon Local School District has been holding meetings throughout the city to speak with residents about the proposed levy.
The ask is for a one and three-quarters percent (1.75%) annual income tax on the earned income of individuals residing in the school district. A previous ask of two percent (2.0%) for an annual income tax was voted on during the November 2021 election which failed.
There has been pushback by some who oppose the levy and do not believe that it is necessary. The Village Reporter was present during the meeting that took place on Tuesday, April 19th. During that meeting numerous voices were heard, and questions were asked on both sides.
The meeting started out with members of the school’s administration speaking to those in attendance about the levy and frequently asked questions.
Larry Zimmerman first spoke about the levy and why it was important to him. “I want to be a voice for the kids. I want that first and foremost. That’s exactly why I did this.”
“The other reason is because I am concerned for the state of our district and districts in the country because of unwanted agendas that are being forced upon our districts and our communities.”
He continued with stating that he had attended a meeting two years prior and learned where the school is at. “The main thing I took from that is, I didn’t ask why we were in trouble.”
“At that point, and at this point it’s really irrelevant why were in trouble.”
“I’m not talking down, I’m not saying what’s happened is good, bad or different but at this point it’s almost not why were here, it’s how do we get out of here. How do we get out of this problem and where do we go from here?”
Mr. Zimmerman continued on to explain that board members in the past have contacted members of the State Legislature and sat down with them to explain the issues.
“The board is five people. How many people are in here? There’s 50, 60 maybe 70 people. If were not happy as a community with where the state is giving us funding, we need to get together as a group, not five board members. I’m not saying we don’t want to do this because we do but, we need help.”
“We can’t do it all ourselves. The more people that go out there and say something, the better off were going to be.”
“So, if you’re not happy with our state funding, I’m not either, we need to talk about it. We need to address it with the people that can fix it. I’m saddened to hear about community members talking down to people who disagree with the levy and vice versa.”
“It’s sad, we should all be allowed to have our voices heard, period. I don’t care if you don’t want it, that’s fine. That’s your opinion.”
“But we all need to have our voices heard. The problem that I see is that no matter what side you’re on, the people are really slinging mud right now. Saying a lot of bad things and telling people to boycott businesses.”
Administration officials then began to read from the frequently asked questions paper that was available to those that attended the meeting.
The paper lists around 40 questions that pertain to things officials had been asked in the past. It also included graphs and explanations as to why the levy was needed.
Some questions were chosen from the list which were then expanded on with more information than what was listed on the papers. One such question pertained to why the levy is needed.
Superintendent Armstrong took the question and explained that school funding given by both the Federal and State governments have been reduced by about a $1,000,000 since 2016.
Funding has also remained flat from the State since 2019. Mr. Armstrong also stated that the district has not asked the community for new money since 2011.
The tax in 2011 was a property tax and is still collecting at the same level now that it was when it started.
He continued to explain that House Bill 920 states that as property values fluctuate, the collection remains the same for the school district.
Costs have also increased including fuel cost which has increased by around 50% from $20,000 to $30,000 for diesel fuel.
The local funding issue was also expanded upon by Mr. Armstrong by showing those in attendance the amount per student in Wauseon which is at $3,484.00 compared to the average at other local NWOAL schools at $6,666.74.
The next closest school to Wauseon on the list is Delta at $4,898.02 of local tax per student with Patrick Henry being the highest at $10,849.19 local tax per student.
Treasurer Fleming also spoke about the budget regarding past audits and cutbacks.
Mr. Fleming explained that the school district is audited by the State every year and that every year there has been a clean audit.
He also stated that a finance committee is being looked at to help with cash flows. Examples were also given by Mr. Fleming regarding cutbacks including pulling preschool back into the district, instead of it being outsourced.
Other cost saving measures that were taken, as stated, include a reduction of the budget, reduction of numerous positions, negotiating no raises for bus drivers, and saving $3,000,000 in energy costs by installing solar arrays, and with the LED lighting project.
The impacts of the November levy failing are also detailed in the handout given to everyone. It states that 22 staff positions have been eliminated, busing will be reduced to state minimum levels, athletics, clubs and activities will be eliminated, budgets will be reduced in all departments and buildings, and increases may be seen for student fees, meal prices and Chromebook insurance.
These impacts will be felt during the 2022-2023 school year if the levy is not passed this May. If the levy does pass, these cuts will be reinstated.
After numerous frequently asked questions were discussed, questions and statements were heard from members of the audience. One person who spoke was Ben Puehler.
Mr. Puehler spoke after Mr. Fleming gave an explanation on who will be taxed from this levy, and the difference between a traditional income tax and an earned income tax.
This means that taxes will only be taken out from wages, salaries and other compensations. It does not tax retirees, individuals working in Wauseon but living outside the district, corporations, or unemployment.
After hearing this, Mr. Puehler stated, “I’ll be real honest with you. This is why I voted no the first go round. When I heard income tax, every red light in the world went off.”
So that information coming forward and the explanation that this is only going to be on a W-2 income, corporations arent taxed and rental companies aren’t taxed, just that income alone is a whole different picture than when someone hears income tax.”
“Had I known this all that I know today for the first go round, the vote would have been pretty easy then,” stated Mr. Puehler.
Numerous other individuals also spoke and asked questions. One topic that was discussed was in regard to sports and if the program makes any money.
It was explained that all extracurricular activities cost around $894,000 a year to run and that the average amount of money brought in with ticket sales is only $256,000.
This amount was expanded on with an example given that the average person would have to buy 12 tickets a year for 12 events at a price of $10 per ticket to come up with 89,000 tickets. Money received from the levy will be used to continue to keep these programs going.
Throughout the meeting, attendees were told that answers to more questions could be found by going to Wauseonlevy.com and that individual questions not on the site could be answered by sending an email to FAQ@WauseonIndians.org
Jacob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org