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Marietta City Schools Levy: Only 14.22 percent of registered voters turn out

Marietta City Schools earned income tax levy fails

Photos by Janelle Patterson Miles Mallett, right, leans in to take a bite out of aunt Jana Miller’s vote on the Marietta City Schools earned income tax levy Tuesday at the Marietta Township Recreation Center.

On National Teacher Appreciation day, a bid to reach competitive revenue and pay for Marietta City Schools’ staff failed at the ballot box.

Tuesday, out of 22 precincts eligible to vote upon the district’s earned income tax levy, the issue saw only 30.35 percent of voter support by close of polls.

“Thanks to everyone who did support us and our teachers,” said MCSD Superintendent Will Hampton, following the release of the loss. “There are a lot of people who do feel it is important to support our public schools and know that we do need it.”

According to the unofficial totals calculated by the Washington County Board of Elections, 1,586 individuals voted against the earned income tax (69.65 percent.)

“I don’t pay taxes because I’m retired, but I still don’t agree with it,” shared Steve Howard, 65, of Whipple, after slipping through the First Church of the Nazarene between bouts of rain in Marietta on Tuesday to cast his vote on the single issue. “Marietta City Schools wastes so much money, you see a bus driver sitting along the road every day for 10, 15, 20 minutes all the time … Here’s the thing, people that are 65 and older, they should not have to pay more taxes, they no longer have kids in school. We’ve paid our way. I paid when I worked and paid as a landowner. When my kids were in school, we paid their way.”

Argyle Clarke leans in to hear Jack Hansis check her in to vote at the First Church of the Nazarene in Marietta on Tuesday.

If the 0.75-percent earned income tax levy (multiply gross wage by 0.0075) had passed, the new tax would not have drawn from the paychecks of individuals who work within the district but do not live within the district; it also would not have drawn from social security payments, pensions, capital gains, IRA withdrawals or dividends.

“The earned income tax levy was chosen since it did not put a burden on the senior citizens on a fixed income,” reiterated MCSD Board of Education President Russ Garrison on Tuesday.

“The approach did not gain traction, I’m at a loss to think a property tax impacting the senior citizens who own their own home would be preferred.”

The levy was anticipated to generate approximately $3 million per year.

But, only 691 votes were tallied in support of the measure, and following the evening announcement of the levy’s failure, some took to social media calling for the district to shut down and writing the “continued failures have sounded the death knell for our beloved city of Marietta.”

Photo by Janelle Patterson Whipple residents check in at the First Church of the Nazarene to vote in Marietta Tuesday.

“I guess at one time when I was struggling early in life I kind of questioned whether I needed that extra tax burden, but you know, I still voted for the kids and chose to work a couple hours extra overtime,” said Michael Barnhouse, 69, of Marietta.

Barnhouse, who is also retired, said for him, it didn’t matter if the tax levy was a property tax that did, or an income tax that didn’t, impact him.

“It didn’t matter, I was going to vote for it, no matter what,” he shared. “I trust what they do, there are good people in those schools. That’s the future of our country and our town in those kids.”

Garrison said he had hoped that the challenges staff of the district overcame in the last year would have been rewarded at the polls.

“They stepped up to the challenge of the past year. My hope was the voters would recognize the significant contribution they make to the students’ lives and agree they should be compensated competitively. I am personally still committed to finding a way to get the district staff’s compensation to a competitive level.”

Official totals will be certified on May 17 by the board of elections.

But those votes tallied Tuesday represent only 14.22 percent of the total registered voters (16,005) living within the city school district including not only city residents, but also 82 residents of Newport Township; 3,456 residents of Muskingum Township; 577 residents of Fearing Township; 16 residents of Lawrence Township; and 3,199 residents in Marietta Township who have registered to vote.

Instead, Hampton said, it’s time to regroup once again.

“We know our needs in our facilities … know our revenue (that is) needed so we can be competitive and pay our people, we’ll just need to make some more changes and adjustments,” he said. “In the end, we’ll make the best of our situation. We’ll regroup … I do believe the community supports schools but it’s hard to get anything passed on the first attempt. You have hope that people will understand the need.”

Both Hampton and Garrison noted the goal remains the same: to raise enough revenue to be competitive with other regional school districts so as to retain both enrollment and the qualified staff to teach them.

“With the levy failure it will not be possible for the district to be competitive if we don’t put a similar sized income or property tax levy on the ballot in the future,” Garrison added.

Hampton noted eyes are also on the Ohio Senate concerning the future of state funding sent to schools; but not with great hope in Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima).

“Senator Huffman is about vouchers and community schools and taking money away from public schools,” said Hampton. “So yes, what passed in the (Ohio) House could help us (if it passes the Ohio Senate) but we were trying to solidify the support for our teachers, custodians, bus drivers and all our staff here at home.”

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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