DELPHOS — “Strong Schools, Strong Community” is the slogan behind an effort to pass an income tax for Delphos schools.
“We believe that without strong schools, then, you know, obviously, we have a weak community. Businesses aren’t coming in and the growths not coming to the community like we would want,” said Doug Westrick, Delphos schools superintendent.
On March 17, less than a month from now, Delphos school district residents will be deciding the fate of a 0.5% five-year traditional income tax levy. The tax would generate nearly $1 million a year for Delphos schools if it’s passed.
As for the cost, someone who earns $50,000 a year can expect to pay $250 a year which would be $20.83 a month or $4.81 a week.
On Monday the district hosted the final community meeting to discuss the levy, this one at the Delphos Knights of Columbus Hall.
Questions from the audience were centered around the differences between a traditional income tax and an earned income tax. It was noted the traditional income tax would apply to things like regular income as well as pensions, interest income, farm income and IRA’s.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of reaching out to those individuals who might come into our office where we could spend more time with the individuals or certain groups,” said Westrick.
It’s been 15 years since the school district has received any new money and the cost of doing business has outpaced its budget.
The district has already trimmed $8 million from the budget since 2006 and expects to have a deficit of $160,000 at the end of the year. If nothing changes, it projects a deficit of $600,000 by the end of 2021 and $2.5 million by 2024.
Some of the recent cost-cutting measures include putting their administration building up for sale and moving their offices to Delphos Jefferson High Schoool. Whenever there has been a teacher retire, that position went unfilled. The district also saved $80,000 a year by moving students out of the Landeck Elementary school building.
If the levy fails, all programs or courses not required by the Ohio Department of Education could be cut and that includes anywhere from 13 to 17 staffers.
“There’s not a lot of fat left on the bone to cut and then we’ve got to get into other staff members. When we do that, we understand that our class sizes increase dramatically. We understand that we’re reducing opportunities for students and more than likely those families are going to find those opportunities for their children elsewhere,” said Westrick.
In recent years, the number of students opting to use open enrollment to come to Delphos schools has declined dramatically to the number of students using open enrollment to go elsewhere. That has affected district finances as more than $6,000 goes to whatever district a student decides to attend. This school year, the district lost 119 students to open enrollment.
If the levy passes, the district is considering hiring a School Resource Officer to help to maintain building safety and security. The district could possibly add new programs over the course of five years as well as keep current programs in place.
“We know that even if the levy passes, we were likely to have to take out a loan to get us through a couple years to offset the deficit that we’re in. So we would be looking at year four and five to hopefully bring back some the programs that we’re currently losing in and maybe at that point also, maybe consider a few additional programs but very strategically looking at the long term impact of those finances,” said Westrick.
Cindy Leis, Business Development Director for the Allen County Economic Development office says healthy schools are important for attracting business.
“The number one question we get is ‘where will I find my workforce?’ We need strong schools. We want those businesses to come into your district,” said Leis.
Karen Grothaus, a levy committee member, is CEO of Spherion job service. She called the passage of the levy “extremely important” and said computer classes, which could be cut if the levy doesn’t pass, is a must for today’s workforce. She also said she supported the vo-ag program and was concerned that extracurricular activities like sports could go away if the levy failed.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.