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Published: Tuesday, 11/5/2002

Swanton schools weigh tax boost to avert deficit

SWANTON - The Swanton board of education, facing a potential deficit by 2004-2005, discussed last night the possibility of asking voters next year for more money to run the district.

The options discussed include a 1 percent income tax, a 0.75 percent income tax, or 7 more mills of property tax than the district is now collecting.

The district, which is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar building project, needs to save or take in an additional $1.5 million a year to make ends meet by the 2004-2005 school year, Superintendent Kevin McQuade said. The district has collected less money than it has spent for at least three years.

No decision is expected until early next year, he said. The issue likely will be discussed again at the Nov. 18 board meeting.

The district might ask voters to replace a 6.96-mill levy and add 5 more mills. The 6.96-mill levy was renewed last year and is collecting taxes at about 2 mills below the full rate. It expires at the end of 2004.

That property tax scenario would give the district an additional $2 million a year by 2007, and allow it to maintain current programs at least until the 2007-2008 school year, the district predicts.

A 1 percent income tax would give the district an additional $1.8 million a year and a 0.75 percent tax would give it $1.3 million a year, according to Ohio Department of Taxation estimates given to the school. If the district passed a 0.75 percent income tax but did not replace the 6.96-mill levy, allowing it to continue collecting at the current rate, the district would be in the red by the 2006-2007 school year, Mr. McQuade said.

Mr. McQuade said an income tax likely would keep rising with the cost of living while a property tax would collect at a flat rate. But he said it was too early for him to make a recommendation to the board. The school district has never had an income tax. A request for an income tax, with the promise that some property taxes would be lowered, failed in 1997.

The biggest cost increases to the district have been in personnel.

A 3 percent increase in salaries costs the district an additional $250,000 a year. All of the district's nearly 200 employees have received salary increases of about 3 percent in recent years.

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