(TB File photo)
(TB File photo)

BY ED GEBERT

Times Bulletin Editor

egebert@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - Five years ago, Van Wert City Schools was able to pass a renewal of the city income tax, but it was a tough fight. The question failed at the ballot box in May before finally being approved in November 2008 by district voters. This time around, the district wants to receive approval the first time around, and school officials think they have done their part to warrant the extension.

"I believe we have been very good stewards of your tax dollars," asserted Superintendent Ken Amstutz. "We work very hard to make sure that has happened. We have listened to the community. We have done what we have tried to do. Can we do better? Yes. Are we going to continue to do that? Yes. We believe we've done what the voters have asked us to do in the past and we will continue to do that."

A series of meetings were held on Monday between various groups and Jeffy Rampelt of Support Ohio Schools. Rampelt is offering assistance to the committee charged with getting information about the tax question to the voters. One of his major tips was to remind the community that Van Wert City Schools has been cutting expenses.

"You have made substantial cuts over the past five years or so," Rampelt told a group of school supporters. "[Treasurer Mike Ruen] is going to do some calculations as to what that dollar amount is simply because, if you had not made those cuts, you would have had to have spent that much more money."

Amstutz added, "We have cut in the past. We have a variety of retirements this year, and we will make significant cuts with the teaching staff this year. We will continue to do that as best as we can, but at some point in time it's going to be where we can't cut any more. We're getting to the point where that's where we are at."

The proposed renewal would make the one percent tax a continuing levy rather than a five-year tax.

"The reason we are doing it that way is the money needs are not going to go away. We recognize that," stated Amstutz.

In all, the income tax brings in around $2.3 million, which is about 13 percent of the district's operating budget. If that money were to be taken away, board of education members would face seriously difficult decisions.

The general sentiment is to keep the tax as is. A suggestion to modify the tax to being collected on earned income only was largely rejected since it would raise the tax rate needed to generate that income to around 1.25 percent. Most at one planning meeting on Monday felt that making the issue a renewal rather than a change of rates was a better option for passage.