Saturday, November 10, 2007

Levy Survey

Before mid-December, the School Board needs to decide how large the levy will be on the March 2008 ballot. I'm taking a survey of what people think about this levy, and intend to present the survey results to the School Board as soon as there are a meaningful number of responses.


...note that some important comments remain attached to this message.


  1. I bought a very modest house in Hilliard 4 years ago. The reason why I moved to Hilliard? Great school system without high taxes. Well, in only four years the school system is in total free fall and they only way the School Board knows how to get out of it is to raise taxes...again. Total free fall may sound extreme, but if you heard the stories I hear from other residents (fights, verbally abusive students, gangs) you wouldn't believe it. If it gets worse, I'm going to have to move to another town/school district like UA or Worthington; at least there my kids will be safe. Not to mention by state of Ohio standards, the district isn't even considered "great" anymore. As for taxes, I (we) pay a higher percentage of taxes by home value compared to some of the worst (yet most expensive) school systems in the country: Washington D.C., Detroit and Los Angeles County. Why is that?

  2. It can be tough to figure out how much, as a homeowner, you actually pay in taxes to support your local school district.

    Certainly you see your property taxes. But a portion (about 50%) of your state income tax makes it back in the school funding from the State of Ohio. The State's funding also includes money from sales taxes. So it's hard to compare our taxes to districts in other states. They may pay less property tax, and more income or sales tax. In some areas of the country, our particular problem - high growth - is addressed with impact fees which are paid by only those who build new homes.

    The local business climate plays a large part as well. Compared to the cities you name, we have very little heavy industry in Columbus, and very few Fortune 500 companies. In fact, the largest asset owners and employers in the area are the state government and OSU, neither of which contribute to school funding.

    The game played forever in central Ohio is for the land developers and homebuilders to do their thing as quickly as possible so that by the time the community figures out it has outgrown its funding, it's too late. We sit around and watch other districts melt down, and say 'it sucks to be them.' Then it becomes our turn.

    The common enemy is the state and local politicians who let this happen. The lobbyists from the homebuilding industry have far too much influence. The insanely developer-favorable annexation laws passed a couple of years ago are a great example of this. And many of us gagged when the Building Industry Association chose Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt as their Citizen of the Year in 2006.

    My core mission in creating was to help people in our community see the truth of how unmanaged residential sprawl is killing our community. I have never understood why the school district leadership isn't telling the story, but they aren't.

    That's the reason I ran for the Board. I didn't make it, but we got Dick Hammond off and Dave Lundregan on. That's a start.

    You can help by directing your friends and neighbors to my website. Sign up for the newsletter.

    I don't get paid for any of this. In fact I spend my own money running the website, just as I did my campaign for election.

    Democracy is hard stuff. The people have to get involved to make it work right. In Hilliard, we let about 20% of the people make all the decisions.

    The levy is going to be on the ballot at the same time as the Presidential Primaries. While only the Democrats had a primary race in 2004, and very few showed up, this time around there will be both Democratic and Republican primaries, and lots of interest. The turnout could be more like the 2004 Presidential election, which was around 80%.

    If there's that many people going to show up at the polls, and the levy is going to be on the ballot, the school leadership has to effectively communicate the story to the whole community. They've got the get the job done in about two months, when I've been on them about communications for two years...

  3. I'd say the first poster is taking the "Chicken Little" approach. Not sure if this is any more helpful than the "Ostrich with head in the sand" approach that others seem to have. My point is that there are major issues that need to be resolved here in Hilliard and that we, like any other school district, have our issues. We need to tackle them in a very sober manner, while acknowledging the number of very good things that are going on in this district.

    The first poster uses the state of Ohio standards to point out that Hilliard CSD isn't doing the job. Does he/she realize that Worthington CSD is also rated as a 'Continuous Improvement' district, just like Hilliard CSD? The overall rating can be dramatically affected by something called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which has been described on this site in prior posts. Thus, you have Worthington and Hilliard which each have high a Performance Index (102.4 and 100.2, respectively) and number of standards met (29/30 and 28/30, respectively) being rated the same as Cleveland (76.4 PI and 4/30 standards met). I believe that the current system can be confusing (and misleading) if you don't dig below the overall rating.

    As for safety, does the first poster realize that just recently there was a bomb threat at Thomas Worthington? I don't say this to put down Worthington CSD. IMHO, it is a great school system. This isn't to say that there are things that Hilliard CSD can and should do better (there are!), but I'm posting this to add a little balance and point out that each district has its issues.

    Paul, I believe while you have pointed out the challenges and problems that Hilliard CSD faces, you have also been good about recognizing the things that have gone right in Hilliard CSD. Otherwise, I don't think you would devote so much time to this web site and your campaign for a BOE spot. I think we can all agree that we need to get to the hard questions that are facing us as far as funding this school system (as well as other issues).

  4. Thanks for the comment.

    There's a saying that goes: "There are three kinds of people in the world: a) people who make things happen; b) people who watch things happen; and, c) people who wondered what happened."

    I've spent most of my 30 years in the Hilliard community being of the third category. My energy went first into my family and my career, and I was happy to let others worry about managing the schools and keeping our streets plowed in the winter.

    So I understand being apathetic about this stuff. Some folks love getting involved as PTO members and athletic boosters and all that. That's good stuff. Blessing on them, I would say.

    The trouble is that there definitely are some people who are not apathetic, and don't care if their actions bring us harm. At the head of this list are the real estate developers, homebuilders, and the politicians who aid them.

    The only place we can defend ourselves in at the polls. But folks have to vote, and they have to be informed. My mission has always been to get the information out there, and hope that it will motivate folks to pay attention to the issues and be well-informed voters.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to school tax levies, many will vote, but without taking the time to get that information. That's why the school leadership needs to work doubly hard - to break through to those folks. It takes a well crafted message and strategy - my main point to the Board for the past few years.

    Instead Mr. Maggied seems to want to dig in his heels every time I bring it up. As top vote getter, I doubt that he feels anything needs to change.

    I have hope that Dave Lundregan and Lisa Whiting will drive change in many aspects of the Board. It would have been very cool to be the third vote in that effort, but I'll be just as happy if we can make the community the '6th man' at the Board meetings.


  5. I'm the "First Poster," and I'd like to say "Thank You" for putting together this blog/forum. I voted for you and will vote for you again without hesitation in the future. I apologize if I was like Chicken Little, but I'm totally confused as to what "rating" Hilliard CSD is and what it means. It's really hard to understand what the ratings mean and is Hilliard CSD "good" or do I need to start looking elsewhere for quality education for my children? Does the School Board deserve us voting in a 9.5 mil rating? Will the money cause the school system to get out of "Continuous Improvement" and into a "Great" or "Excellent" status? Will the money help at risk children? Will the money go to more arts and science programs? Or will it just go to teachers salaries which seem to go up year after year with little or no basis on the quality of education they provide. I'm willing to vote for the levy if I know it will help the school district as a whole. I won't vote for it if it will just go to the teachers and their union.

  6. I don't really understand the ratings either. I wrote my thoughts about our latest report card, and others added some interesting comments.

    I think maybe schools systems are like hospitals. There are some hospitals which have a reputation of being very good. Nonetheless, some of the doctors and nurses there are better than others, and not every patient has the same experience of excellent care. Often, the quality of care a patient receives can be significantly improved simply by the presence of a strong family member who acts as an advocate for the patient.

    The experience our kids had (both are Darby graduates) was good. We respected all of their teachers, and came to know some of them pretty well. We never felt a need to demand any changes.

    But I have some friends in our district who had experiences which were much different. They had to fight to get what their kids needed, sometimes over strong opposition. One family ultimately brought a lawsuit against the school system.

    Here's another way schools are like hospitals - you go there to get the services of trained professionals. While few of us would begrudge the salary of the doctor who mends our kid's broken leg, many are quite willing to complain about what teachers get paid - people who will have great influence over what our kids become.

    I think we have an excellent school system here in Hilliard. But it is in danger now because those folks in the leadership of the district are competent educators and dedicated parents, but not savvy business folks or community leaders. Dave Lundregan will begin to change that, but I fear we've already squandered a great deal of time which should have been used educating our people, and rallying them to put a stop to the harvesting of our community by developers, homebuilders and the politicians who facilitate them.

    Thanks for you vote. I may ask for your support again in 2009. But the danger point is in the next couple of months leading up to the levy vote. If this one doesn't pass, our schools will suffer, and the kids and our community along with it.

    Tell your friends about my website and blog, and encourage them to ask questions if there are things they don't understand. I'm happy to communicate with any person or group who wants to learn the whole truth.

  7. Maggied seems like the pied piper - where he pipes the school board meekly follows, like the other Fed Reserve Board members used to follow Alan Greenspan. What's so great about Maggied?

    As far as development goes, are we finally near the end? Is there much more available land and is development going to continue to be a problem? I wonder if the widening project on Rome-Hilliard will encourage further development since most people think development=more traffic, rather than development=more traffic AND higher property taxes!

  8. I'll not speak badly of Doug Maggied. While he and I have butted heads on some things, I've known him for years, have served on community planning committees with him, and very much respect his commitment to our community. His challenge is that he has no experience leading an organization of this scale, which shows up in his difficulty dealing with the financial and public relations aspects of his role. Dave Lundregan and Lisa Whiting will begin to change this.

    As far as development goes, the best way to answer your question is to refer you to this district map. You'll note that Cosgray and Alton-Darby Rd just about split the district down the middle, north to south. That is the eastern border of Brown Twp.

    Few of the folks in our district have ventured out to our western frontier in Brown Twp, where Bradley High School is being built. We are still mostly farmland, with spinklings of homes on mostly 5+ acre parcels.

    Those thousands of acres of farmland are square in the bullseye of developers and homebuilders. Had the US housing market not gone into the dumps, you can be sure there would be thousands of houses under contruction out here.

    Read this article if you haven't already to get a start on understanding how much control the developers exercise over our community. It will be interesting to see what City Councilman-elect Dan Nichter does when he takes office (read
    what the Darby Creek Association has to say about Homewood Homes and Mr. Nichter).

    Every time a house gets built, we go further in the hole. If folks could just come to grips with that fact, it would be a great start.

  9. Thanks Paul, this really helps me understand the complexity of the situation in Hilliard. I'm a "No to All Levies" kind of person, however, I have voted for levies in Hilliard - it's an investment in the community and not just a hand going into my wallet. I'm still **very suspicious** of some individuals in the Hilliard CSD just spending like sailors, but that's a continuous battle. Thanks again.
    Chicken Little (CL)