Stagnant revenues and reduced state assistance have led the Pike-Delta-York school district to ask voters this November for a 1% income tax levy.
The proposed five-year levy, which would generate about $1.6 million annually, comes at a time when the school district’s revenues have increased just a fraction over one-half of 1% in the past five years – or 0.52% annually. During the same time period, the school district has received $54,500 less in state foundation payments as compared to the 2014-15 school year.
Additionally, the district has seen only an average of 0.56% in property tax increase over a five-year period, and tax abatement agreements for new construction and commercial projects have eliminated the district’s growth. PDY Superintendent Ted Haselman said NEXUS pipeline money during the 2019-20 fiscal year is the single source of real estate growth the school district has experienced in five years.
Haselman said the time has arrived to ask voters for financial help.
“The Board of Education has continued to be very cognizant of when to ask our community for support,” he said. “They have stressed time and time again they do not want to ask for dollars until it is absolutely necessary, as they do not want to place an unwarranted burden on our community.”
In fact, he said, while the school district’s expenditures continued to increase at an average rate of 3.04% between the fiscal years of 2013-20, administrators have successfully kept them in check. In Fiscal Year 2020 the district was awarded nearly $900,000 in grants to offset expenses. Haselman said with changes in class sizes the school district has implemented staff adjustments, eliminating four positions for the current school year while routinely ensuring the schools are adequately staffed.
“Fiscal responsibility is one of the highest priorities of this Board of Education and administration,” Haselman said. “The district’s use of federal grant dollars actually allowed the district to reduce expenditures in fiscal year 2020 by 2.07%. We are always actively looking to earn grant dollars to pay for our expenses to ease the tax burden on PDY residents.”
He said an income tax levy is being proposed to maintain fairness to property owners by spreading the cost across a larger segment of district residents. He said it will also be more amiable to senior citizens than an across-the-board real estate tax. Social security benefits are not taxed by a school district income, which includes an annual $50 credit per senior citizen.
If the proposed levy fails Nov. 3 the school board may have to consider adding a levy to the May or November ballot next year. Haselman said it’s either that solution or implementing major budget reductions “which would impact the quality of education and services our students receive. The need will not go away.”
A district levy committee began meeting this month. The school district will share levy facts with the community through October.
“We pride ourself on getting the most out of the funds we have and have not approved new tax dollars from the community in nearly 10 years,” Board of Education President Mike Ford said. “That said, the time has come where the school district requires more revenue to support our children in the way they deserve and I am hopeful that our community trusts us come November with a positive vote. A healthy school is a healthy community.”
Voters last awarded the PDY school district new revenue through a 5.99-mill property tax levy nine years ago, renewing it at 7.62 mill after three years. The same levy was approved as a substitute levy in 2018.
But Haselman said community members he has spoken to favor an income tax. “These folks stated they feel it is a fairer tax and are happy all residents would be paying the tax, not just property owners,” he said.
He said the community has been supportive of the school district’s most recent levies, and believes residents trust both the schools and school board members.
“The board’s philosophy to not place unwarranted asks on our district residents has strengthened that trust,” Haselman said. “Additionally, the continuous improvement in the instructional programs reflected by the district’s positive state report card results show the district is moving in a positive direction.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010