I have read a number of opponents of issue #6 who dislike the unfairness of the property tax the board wants to use for the facilities, and the loss of older and lower income segments of the community, as the taxes drive these people away*. Property taxes are inherently regressive, costing a larger percentage of the income for lower income people.
An income tax would still hurt those who have low incomes, but it would probably be a smaller hit, and impact all segments of the community the same. Why has the possibility of an income tax been almost totally dismissed throughout the facility review process?
Unanswered questions about income taxes
I checked back in past documents and found almost nothing about evaluating an income tax for the school facility improvements. During Community Engagement Meeting #6, held June 8, 2017, Treasurer Collier did say that there was a possibility of using an income tax.
Skip ahead in the video by dragging the progress bar, at 1:26:10 an income tax is discussed. No projections were made by Collier for how much income tax would be needed to address the school needs. All questions about the possibility of an income tax were being left for the Finance committee.**
Treasurer Collier said that the Finance committee would be looking at the income tax possibility, but with no statement of support for an income tax from the school board, the committee was left to take all the heat generated from proposing an income tax. Without a specific mandate from the board to explore income taxes ( and come up with a plan, instead of a quick dismissal) , why would any committee place themselves in the position of proposing a new kind of tax?
Why would something as important as exploring the possibility of a new income tax for the school be left in the hands of a closed, no meeting notes, no accountability committee? This is the same question we asked about the recommendation from the Finance committee to add a one mill operation levy to the bond levy – why is a closed group, in violation of Ohio Open meeting laws, making decisions that should be made by the school board?
Why open meetings are important
We have no way to find out what happened in the Finance committee meetings. Was the option of an income tax even discussed? There was no recording of the meetings, there was no meeting notes. Emails to participants are not answered.
Maybe there was a significant number of FC members who thought that an income tax would be the best way to fund the school improvements? And if the community were allowed to attend those meetings, we could have noted who argued in favor, and the reasons they gave. We could take that information to the board, and ask them to revisit the possibility. We could have promoted the option of an income tax in community groups like G4G, and organized a groundswell of support for that option.
All those possibilities are gone, because the Finance committee was closed, because all of the process and deliberations of the group – which those members told us they did in depth and for many hours – are lost forever. Any new finance committee which may be needed to revisit the facility questions after a failed levy will have to start from zero.
The board should be the only group discussing tax options
Tax levies are the most important issues the board is legally empowered to decide for the schools. It is the basic floor that all the rest of the school system is built on. Unless the money from the taxpayers can be acquired by a board that is trusted, and earns the votes of the community, all of the planing and policy of the board means nothing.
School boards are supposed to be open, conducting all discussion on tax levies so the community can evaluate the arguments. We can listen, be persuaded — or be opposed. Most importantly, we can know which board members made what arguments. When elections for seats on the board come around, we can remember who we liked, and give them our vote. We can campaign against the members who don’t do a good job.
The foundation of democracy is listening to the public office holders, and making them accountable in the polling place.
When the Grandview Heights school board delegates vital issues to closed committees, they are breaking the laws of Ohio on open meetings. They are actively degrading the democratic basis of our community. We should never accept that as “the way we do things here”. We should be telling the board, over and over, “you are wrong, stop taking away out democratic rights”. We should keep doing that until they understand they are wrong – or until they are voted out of office.
Dayton Task force cancels meetings
Tip of the hat to Stephanie Wolfe. A Dayton school system tried to hold facility task force meetings in private, similar to the Grandview Task force and Finance committees. After complaints from news media that Ohio open meting laws required the meetings to allow everyone to attend, the meetings were canceled.
Previously – Vote no on issue #6, part 1
*… A “yes” vote commits both our own financial backing and our neighbors’, regardless of their capacity to do so. While the proposed plan may not yield a critical financial burden for a majority, it absolutely will for some. I cannot support any initiative that jeopardizes the stability and well-being of any of our neighbors.
It is concerning that at-risk households had no apparent representation in the plan development, particularly given a natural reluctance to share financial vulnerability. In this context, it is also concerning to put forth a plan that is defined as economical because it “will cost (the community) less in the long term.” Long-term savings are not a luxury available to at-risk households, and further, are not a priority when considering that community membership over 40-plus-year periods is more fluid than static.
It is our civic duty, and most importantly our duty to our children who observe our actions, to develop a holistic plan that both maintains the soul of this community and addresses critical facility needs. Let’s honor the tradition of our beautifully unique nook by ensuring inclusivity and accessibility remain alongside excellence.
Jack McNamara, in the Tri-Village News
I emailed Treasurer Collier, Superintendent Culp, and Board president Truett, and asked them why the board has not addressed any questions about an income tax for improvements at the school.
No answer from any of them.
**Worth watching in this video – Collier tried to use the effective tax rate to cloud the issue of total millage. She didn’t want to talk about total mills (we have the highest total mills of property tax in the county, out of all school systems ), She had to count down on her fingers the numbers to find the ranking for total effective property rate, but again ignoring total real mills.
Total real millage
This is an important issue, but I don’t hear it discussed (except for the person who brought it up at that meeting in the video). Grandview Heights already has the highest total real mills out of all school systems. That number is the total for school millage, plus city mills. The #6 supporters like to ignore that number, and switch the conversation to effective mills, a reduction caused by the convoluted way the state reduces mills (the tax reduction factor to subtract inflation, SB 920).
The total millage is the number that tells you how many levies the voters have passed. Grandview voters almost always say yes, more than any other school district. We have done our part to support the schools via millage – maybe too much. Those tax millage numbers are looked at by businesses who want to find a new location, if Grandview Heights becomes the top tax location in both real and effective tax rates, they can very easily go someplace else.
An income tax is already used by Bexley, Canal Winchester, and Reynoldsburg. Maybe it is time for Grandview Heights to join them?