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Published: Wednesday, 4/29/2009

Fulton County voters face issues on seniors, schools

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A countywide seniors' services levy and school issues in the Wauseon and Pike-Delta-York school districts headline a slate of 12 levy questions on Fulton County ballots Tuesday.

The 1.1-mill seniors' services levy and the 1-mill permanent improvements levy for the Wauseon schools are renewals, meaning that assessments for both will not change if they pass.

But Pike-Delta-York voters are being asked for a new, 0.75 percent income tax to offset revenue the district lost from its property levies after Ohio phased out its tangible-property tax during the last three years.

The income tax, expected to raise about $900,000, will be charged only on wages and other "earned" income, while pensions, stock dividends, and the like will be untouched.

"Things are bad in the economy, but this has nothing to do with that," Joyce Kinsman, the school district's chief financial officer, said late last month. The timing of the income-tax request, she said, is unfortunate "and we really feel bad about it," but it's essentially a consequence of the state's tax-cut decision three years ago.

Wauseon school officials also had considered placing an operating levy on the upcoming ballot, but abandoned that plan in February because of the region's economic crisis and instead voted last week to lay off five teachers and three support staff, plus make other cuts to reduce spending by about $875,000.

During that meeting, schools superintendent Marc Robinson emphasized that the permanent-improvements levy up for renewal next week is distinct from funds available to pay for staff - as is the state funding Wauseon is using to build new schools.

"It can't be used to pay teacher salaries, and it can't be used to pay the gas or electric bill," Mr. Robinson said. Instead, he said, the $180,000 in annual revenue will be spent on repairing and repainting the high school pool, drainage improvements at the baseball field, refinishing gymnasium floors, steam-cleaning drains throughout the district, and other repairs and equipment needs.

The Fulton County Senior Center, meanwhile, has run into the same problem afflicting the Pike-Delta York Schools: the loss of tangible-property revenue.

When approved by county voters in 2004, the center's current operating levy marked a 0.2-mill increase over the tax previously collected, boosting estimated annual revenue from $715,000 to $963,000. But revenue has since declined to about $880,000 because of the tangible-property tax's abolishment, county auditor Nancy Yackee said in February.

In Swancreek Township, officials have asked for a new 1.25-mill road-improvements levy that if approved will cost $38.28 annually for the owner of a home valued at $100,000.

Meanwhile, the Archold Community Library is seeking renewal of its existing 0.4-mill levy, plus a 0.3-mill increase, for five years to cover the library's operating expenses. For the owner of a $100,000 home in Archbold, the library tax will increase from $12 to $21.44 if the question passes.

Other levy issues around the county on Tuesday's ballot include:

•replacements of a 1.5-mill operating levy for the Swanton Fire Department and a 0.5-mill permanent-improvements levy for Swanton's village park;

•renewal of a 1-mill fire apparatus, equipment, and buildings levy in Amboy Township;

•renewal of a 1-mill road construction and maintenance levy in German Township;

•renewal of a 0.4-mill cemetery levy in Gorham Township;

•replacement of 1 mill of the Swancreek Township Fire Department's existing 1.25-mill levy;

•replacement of a 0.5-mill fire apparatus, equipment, and buildings levy in York Township.

Renewal levies retain collection of taxes based on property valuations when the existing levy took effect, while replacement levies update the basis of assessment to current property values.

Except for the Wauseon schools' levy, all of the taxes on the ballot are proposed to be collected starting next year and expire after five years. The Wauseon levy is proposed to continue perpetually.



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