HOWARD — Proponents of new taxes for East Knox Local Schools can’t be faulted if they feel bruised and battered, but when interviewed on Thursday, Superintendent Steve Larcomb said the district’s levy committee is energized and that he’s optimistic voters will be generous on Nov. 5.
Property owners and wage earners will decide on a combination levy with a 1 percent earned income tax and 2.9-mill property tax. The stakes are high. If the levy fails and the district has to borrow funds to meet its obligations, it will trigger a downgrade by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) from Fiscal Caution to Fiscal Emergency.
In an appeal to voters, Larcomb observed that the district’s latest tax increase was in 1996 and has expired; and that you have to go back 29 years to find a levy granting new funds to East Knox schools that is still in effect. Implications for the district are dire if the levy fails. Fiscal Emergency is roughly equivalent to bankruptcy in the corporate world. Implications for taxpayers, meanwhile, are a 1 percent contribution from their paychecks and an increase in property taxes for the next 10 years.
The earned income tax applies to wages and self-employment income after expenses. Examples of income that would not be taxed include Social Security and disability benefits, pensions, capital gains, interest and child support. That tax would generate $1.4 million a year once fully in force. The property tax would cost owners of $100,000 homes roughly $90 per year and generate $700,000 a year.
Levies have been soundly rejected in recent years, but in May an issue comparable to this fall’s failed by only 101 votes. Larcomb is new to the district, but senses good things in the air. Part of his optimism stems from the district’s first-ever ODE Excellent rating. That puts a spring in any educator’s step, and Larcomb said it has invigorated the community.
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