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Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

Parkway levy, Marion income tax fail

By Daily Standard Staff

Mercer County Board of Elections members Owen Hall and Mark Uhlenhake collect a. . .

Three levies passed and two failed at the polls Tuesday night in the Grand Lake area.
Both the income tax for Celina schools and the property tax for the Fort Recovery area fire department passed, while the levy for Parkway athletic facilities failed. In Marion Local school district, a property tax passed, while an income tax failed.
Parkway school district voters said no to a 4.5-mill permanent improvement levy that would have generated almost $2.1 million to upgrade the school's outdoor athletic facilities.
The district's voters in Mercer County rejected the levy 1,141 to 342 (76.94-23.06 percent), along with its Van Wert County voters turning the levy down, 260-51 (83.86-16.14 percent).
"We're disappointed, but it's not stopping us from upgrading our athletic facilities. It will just be done over a period of time, in stages as the money is available," Superintendent Doug Karst said this morning.
The levy would have provided the funding upfront, instead, funding now may be sought from outside the school, such as booster groups.
"Parkway voters are very good at supporting the essentials. With the current economic times, it's not a good time for extras," Karst said.
The top priority for the athletic facilities is getting the school's new track in shape to allow the district to host home track meets, he said.
Other athletic improvements school officials would like to do include moving the football field to the track area, getting new bleachers, press box, lighting, ticket booths, concession stand/restrooms, fencing around the sports complex, a varsity softball diamond and renovation of the present diamond.
"The levy allowed us to hear what the voters had to say," Karst said. "Right now, we're getting our district in line administration-wise and that's a priority. We have a superintendent and treasurer to replace."
Marion Local
Voters in the Marion Local school district approved one levy and turned down another -the first attempt at an income tax - following a low-key campaign.
The 11.6-mill property tax passed by a vote of 755 to 445 for a margin of 64 to 36 percent, while voters rejected the 0.25 percent income tax by a vote of 657 to 538, or 54 to 46 percent.
The failed income tax would have raised $150,000 a year for a period of five years, costing someone with an earned income of $35,000 a total of $87.59 annually. The initiative would have affected only earned or self-employment income and not Social Security benefits, pensions, interest dividends or capital gains.
The 11.6-mill levy will generate $805,662 annually for a period of five years. It will cost the owner of a $100,000 home $355.25 annually. It replaces a 12.22-mill emergency that expired in late December.
Superintendent Carl Metzger thanked voters who supported the levies noting the property tax measure passed overwhelmingly while the income tax was narrowly defeated.
"The defeat of this measure (in my opinion) does not indicate that our residents are against needed additional revenue for the district, but are not in favor of an income tax," he said.
Board of education members now face a decision on returning to the ballot in November with another property tax measure. It would take just over 2 mills to raise the additional $150,000 needed to maintain current programs. A discussion on how to proceed could come as early as Monday night when the board holds its regular monthly meeting.
Celina school district voters passed a five-year 0.75 percent income tax with 2,831 yes votes and 1,629 no (63.4-36.5 percent).
The levy will generate $2.175 million annually and will go into effect Jan. 1, 2009.
The levy will replace the 0.75 percent income tax levy that expires at the end of this year. The current levy generates $2.4 million in 2007.
Pensions and other passive incomes such as interest and dividend earnings will be excluded from the new replacement levy. Therefore, most people will see a reduction in taxes collected.
The levy is used for the day-to-day operations of the school system.
Fort Recovery
Residents in the Fort Recovery area overwhelmingly passed a five-year fire protection levy that will increase their property taxes beginning in 2009.
More than 70 percent of voters in Mercer County approved the 1.5-mill levy for the Southwest Mercer Fire District, which covers 145 square miles in the southwest portion of Mercer County. Actual votes were 717 for the levy and 263 against.
The fire district includes Fort Recovery and rural Washington, Recovery and Gibson townships and contracts to provide fire protection to Wabash and Noble townships in Jay County, Ind., and Mississinawa Township in Darke County.
The 1.5-mill levy will replace a 1-mill levy that expires this year.
Fire Chief Kim Day told The Daily Standard for an earlier story that fuel costs in particular forced the department to seek additional funds.
- Daily Standard reporters Betty Lawrence, Margie Wuebker, Janie Southard and Shelley Grieshop contributed to this story.
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