Originally Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2012, 9:36 pm
Last Updated: Nov. 15, 2012, 11:44 pm

Mercer County will vote on 1 percent sales tax increase

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By Pam Berenger pberenger@qconline.com

Mercer County voters will be asked to approve a 1 percent sales tax increase for the school district next spring.

On Wednesday, the school board agreed to put the referendum question on the April ballot, and said that, if approved, it could generate about $300,000 a year for the district.

Although voters rejected the increase in the past, board member Marta Tucker said "the board has a responsibility to put it out there and let the voters decide."

She said the tax was brought up during recent public forums.

"I believe the sales tax is a much fairer form of tax than property taxes," board president Doug Ball said. "I saw overwhelming support at the public meetings. Let's see how it goes."

Officials said the additional money is needed to avoid deep cuts to maintain a balanced budget.

"There is no wiggle room," superintendent Alan Boucher said. "The levy is maxed out and even keeping the rates maxed we are set to lose $43,000 in taxes."

That's because the district's equalized assessed valuation is dropping. Last year, the estimated EAV was $156 million, but the actual EAV came in at $132 million, or $24 million less. This year's estimate is about $125 million.

The board is expected to approve the tax levy at December's meeting.

In other business, the board:

- Agreed to hire a firm to analyze the district's transportation department before deciding whether to outsource transportation or maintain the district's bus fleet.

- Hired paraprofessionals Nicole Lenz, New Boston Elementary, and Amanda Gray, high school; assistant softball coach Monica Dennison; assistant high school basketball coach Derek Hermanson; and 7th grade basketball coach Scott Jenkins.