South-Western schools operating levy opponent Terry Jones has repeatedly said the community cannot afford to pass the 8.3-mill four-year levy Aug. 4 because per capita income in the district was $22,173 in 2007.

South-Western schools operating levy opponent Terry Jones has repeatedly said the community cannot afford to pass the 8.3-mill four-year levy Aug. 4 because per capita income in the district was $22,173 in 2007.

Jones, head of the anti-levy group South-Western Alternatives to Taxes, quoted that number from the American Community Survey, a U.S. Census Bureau report. He uses the statistic to illustrate that salaries among South-Western school employees far exceed that of residents.

Per capita is total income divided by every adult and child in the district.

The average income per wage-earner living in the district is much higher -- $43,914.

That total -- and similar totals for all school districts in Ohio -- are reported in an Excel document called "Y2CY07.XLS" on the Ohio Department of Taxation Web site. A Google search for the document leads to the Web page.

Mike Gordon of Grove City, who identified himself as a levy supporter and a certified public accountant, said in an e-mail to The Grove City Record that Jones' use of a per-capita income in a guest column in the July 16 Record is a "a gross distortion of the facts."

"A family of four that earns a household income of $100,000, has a per capita income of $25,000," Gordon wrote. "Per capita income and an individual's salary are different measures that are not comparable."

Jones defended his choice of statistics by saying $22,173 annually translates to $11.53 an hour.

He said finding a job on Stringtown Road with a starting wage of more than $9 per hour, let alone $11.53, would be difficult.

"You're lucky to find a job that pays $10 per hour," he added. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a person in this area that makes $40-some-thousand a year. I'm thoroughly convinced that we just can't afford these taxes. We just can't."

He also quotes Ohio Department of Education figures as saying the average SWCS teacher earned $57,620 in the 2007-08 school year.

SWCS Treasurer Hugh Garside last week said the average salary for full-time employees of the district is $50,063, less than the teachers' average.

He said he calculated that number using district financial records.

"Information and, or misinformation is one of the biggest challenges that face the district during the campaign," Superintendent Bill Wise said last week.

Jones' group also cites the school district's latest comprehensive financial report in an effort to strengthen its case.

According to the report, district-managed student-activity expenses ran $34,799 over revenues for fiscal year 2008.

Some residents said they believe that number is the total cost of running extracurricular activities in the district.

Garside said that is not true. He said the comprehensive financial report shows the district's total cost of running extracurricular events exceeded $1.3-million last year.

Those expenses exceeded related income (including concessions, gate receipts, yearbook sales and parent-teacher organization donations) by $34,799.

Garside said the $1.3-million for extracurricular events is separate from the cost for services such as hiring coaches, band directors and paying the cost for transporting teams. That number is closer to $2.5-million.

Jones said realities still exist for homeowners in the district who strain to make ends meet.

"This is an emotionally driven campaign," Jones said. "When it comes to facts and figures, throw them out the window. It doesn't matter.

"The school district has their facts and figures, but the homeowners have their facts and figures that they have to deal with," he said.

He added homeowners must deal with utility, mortgage, grocery and medical bills that take priority over school taxes.

Frederic E. Van Order, who works with Jones in finding alternatives to taxes, said statistics can cut either way.

"From a statistical point of view, I could provide arguments for both sides," he said. "Regardless, everybody better vote."

Jones continued his stance that district union employees should make more wage and benefit concessions.

Gordon said, "The facts are that the district has cut over 300 positions and $18-million over the past three years including 16 percent of the administrative staff."