My wife takes care of the bill-paying at our house and this morning, she wrote a check for our property taxes. We’ve been hit with a $55.00-increase, attributable partly to the school levy for which we voted last year.
In the meantime, our school system, the West Clermont district, is being forced to make cuts, some of which will result in worsening student-to-teacher ratios.
Parents who have gotten wind of this are upset, understandably so.
Personally, I want people all over Ohio to be mad. But, our local school boards or district administrations shouldn't be the objects of our ire.
The fault is a byzantine school funding formula which has been judged unconstitutional four different times by the state supreme court.
That formula is a shell game that robs our schools and kids of money that voters authorize the schools to have. And nobody seems to know where that money goes.
Fundamental to getting a handle on Ohio's school funding mess is remembering that Ohio schools are financed mostly by local property taxes. In a sensible world, Ohio would follow a simple formula in obeying the state constitution’s provision that all our kids will receive the same educational opportunities. It might look like this in a Simulated District:
(a X b= c) = (d + e)But, Ohio’s school funding formula isn’t sensible!
(a) State-Set Per Student Cost of Educating Student
(b) # of students
(c) Total Cost in Simulated District
(d) locally-generated property tax revenue
(e) state additions or reductions to local revenues insuring that the "revenue" side equals the "need" side.
It goes back to a law called House Bill 920. HB 920 was passed in 1976, a time of high inflation. Under the law, increases in property valuations (rooted in inflation), would not result in massive influxes of funds into school treasuries.
In fact, irrespective of increases in property values or authorized tax millages, HB 920 caps the amount of tax revenue that can be received by a school district on those properties.
The complicated system now in place is a confusing maze. Two of its confusing components:
Phantom revenue: The difference between what the state appears to be committed to providing students and what is actually provided.In the past, these injustices were somewhat lessened by a “cost of doing business” allowance. It accounted for different community economic conditions. A ream of paper might cost more in Batavia than in Boardman, for example, thus effecting per-pupil educational expenses. But in his latest biennial budget, Governor Taft proposes doing away with this equalizing provision.
Capped Property Valuation Revenue: As property values increase, school districts might be expected to receive greater revenues, thus enabling them to keep pace with inflation. But in fact, except for newly constructed housing, the revenues from already existing housing is capped. This is one reason why school districts are forced to go back to voters for levies of various kinds with such frequency.
There are proposals on the table to rectify the state’s school funding mess, one of which I’ll discuss in my next column.