By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
VAN BUREN — Van Buren, one of the only school districts in Hancock County without an income tax, is asking for a 1 percent tax on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The tax would raise an estimated $2,448,952 annually for five years, according to Treasurer Alex Binger. It would be effective Jan. 1, 2020.
A new tax is “needed to continue operations at the level that our community has come to expect,” Binger said. Additional revenue would correct the district’s recent deficit spending.
Expenses exceeded revenue by $331,720 in fiscal year 2016, $625,682 in fiscal year 2017 and $402,675 in fiscal year 2018, according to a five-year forecast filed with the state in May. A spending deficit of $1,804,314 is projected for fiscal year 2019.
The school district carried over $5,218,800 at the end of fiscal year 2018 and is not projected to have an overall deficit until fiscal year 2022, according to the forecast.
Van Buren has decreased its per-pupil spending, Binger said, but inflation and increasing enrollment are driving the deficit.
An income tax, rather than a property tax, diversifies revenue, Binger said. Also, revenue would grow as income grows.
He predicted that every school district in the county will end up with an income tax. If Van Buren’s request is granted, and if voters in other districts renew income taxes, Findlay City Schools would become the only district in Hancock County without an income tax.
If the proposed income tax is defeated, the Van Buren district could try again on the March primary ballot. After a second failure, a clearer picture of potential budget cuts would emerge.