As much as $50,000 could go to OV
by Derek Pope
Earlier this month Shelby County residents passed a new one percent sales tax aimed at helping area schools maintain their often-aging buildings. The referendum, which passed on March 18 and goes into effect April of next year, could bring Okaw Valley schools as much as $50,000 in increased revenue according to district superintendent Kent Stauder.
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The new levy, referred to as the “school facility sales tax”, will apply to all goods sold in Shelby County and provide a portion of its returns to districts based on the number of students residing in Shelby County enrolled at their schools—roughly $273 a student. The new funds are expected to be a windfall opportunity for Okaw Valley schools, as a significant portion of their student body lives just over the county line in Findlay.
With this in mind, Okaw Valley’s administration joined in advocating for the new sales tax early in the process. Superintendent Kent Stauder, formerly a principal at Central A&M himself, joined a coalition of other superintendents from Cowden-Herrick, Shelbyville, Stewardson-Strasburg, Pana, Central A&M, and Neoga schools to get information about the March referendum out to Shelby County residents early. As the March 18 vote approached, the coalition of superintendents reached out to media outlets in the hopes of spurring voter turnout.
Stauder told the News Progress, “We headquartered in Shelbyville to get the media there, and we were focused on getting them to come toward us.” The superintendent also enlisted the help of three Findlay residents, Dave Keown, Tracey Coleman, and Sean Creviston, to be part of a steering committee tasked with providing guidance on how to best bring area voters on board with the school facility sales tax. Ultimately, it passed with one of the largest margins of any sales tax in recent history, likely due in part to the efforts of area leaders and school administrators across multiple counties.
While a number of area schools will benefit from this new sales tax, Okaw Valley School District is in a unique position to reap the benefits. With the majority of Okaw Valley’s population residing within Moultrie County, area residents are more likely to pay a smaller share of the sales tax, which only applies to goods purchased within Shelby County. However, every school district in Shelby County receives an equal share of the tax revenue on a per-student basis. As a result, the majority of Okaw Valley’s enrollees will see the benefits of the sales tax without their families being required to pay it.
The funds granted to school districts do carry stipulations, though. Money from the sales tax may be spent only on school facilities and grounds, meaning it may be used only for the upkeep and renovation of school buildings themselves—not things such as textbooks, computers, or teachers’ salaries. As of the referendum’s passage, Okaw Valley had made no plans for how it will spend the new tax money. According to Superintendent Stauder, “Our current plan is to hold off and see what [the actual revenue] is going to be,” though he added that he plans to arrange for the board of education’s facilities committee to meet in the coming months to discuss the next steps.