Please also read this proposal I've made to the school leadership.
>> NEW: KJ says 'Make you voice heard!'
The reason is simply this:
The cuts that will take place if the levy fails – the cuts which the Administration recommended and the School Board unanimously approved – will severely wound the school district yet do nothing to solve the fundamental problems.
Those problems are:
For school districts in Ohio, funding comes from three sources: a) taxes on residents (always real estate taxes and sometimes also income taxes); b) taxes on businesses (real estate and personal property); and, c) the State of Ohio. In order to keep our property taxes reasonable, all three of these must grow in a constant proportion to each other as the student population grows, but they have not:
- Prior to the collapse of the housing market nationwide, thousands of new residences were built in our schools, generating on average 0.8 school age kids for each new residence. At our current spending level of $10,000 per kid per year, 100 new houses means 80 new kids, or $800,000 in new annual expense. However, those 100 new houses will pay on average about $3,500 per year in school tax, yielding $350,000 in new revenue. Where will the other $450,000 come from?
- The State of Ohio has been holding its funding to our school district at constant dollars for a couple of years, and the indication is that this will be case going forward as well, especially with the phase out of the Tangible Personal Property Tax revenue stream, begun during the Taft administration. In other words, the State of Ohio is funding none of the growth of students in our district. Instead our state tax dollars (income taxes, sales taxes, lottery proceeds, etc) are be diverted to urban and rural districts on the theory that suburban districts like ours are wealthy and don't need the money.
- Commercial development within our school district has not kept pace with residential development. Remember that there are three municipalities – Hilliard, Dublin and Columbus – each controlling development in their portion of our common school district.
While Columbus has allowed a large number of multi-family apartment developments to be constructed within their city limits, there has also been substantial development of commercial property, generating at least $2.4 million/yr of new school funding in the past decade - enough to balance the development of 700 new homes.
Dublin allowed the development of Ballantrae and other single-family housing, but included little commercial development in the process (e.g. the Mall at Tuttle Crossing and the surrounding commercial development is in the Columbus and Dublin school districts).
The City of Hilliard has had some recent success in commercial development, but has also had to make up for the loss of businesses such as Dana Manufacturing (bare lot now), Sutherlands (became a church), and the Evergreen restaurant (now an intersection).
What needs to be fixed on the funding side?
Answer: Slow down residential development to a pace no greater than that of net commercial development, and demand that the State of Ohio not fall further behind in what is due our District.
Whatever else we might believe drives spending in our school district, the truth is that 85% of the money is spent on salaries and benefits for the 1,600+ full-time equivalent employees on our payroll, and this proportion is growing.
About 95% of the employees are members of one of two unions, either the Hilliard Education Association (teachers and other positions requiring certificates or licenses) or the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (the rest of the 95%). The collective bargaining agreements negotiated at the beginning of 2008 call for about 70% of those members to receive 7% raises each of the next three years, while the other 30% - the most senior and most highly paid members – receive 3% raises. The cost of these increases is moderated somewhat by the new requirement that the union members pay a portion of the cost of their healthcare insurance coverage – 6% in 2008, 8% in 2009, and 10% in 2010. Prior to this contract, union members paid none of their healthcare insurance premiums.
The deal these unions got from our School Board is out of whack with the general economy, and was a mistake in my opinion. However, rather than calling the unions back to the bargaining table, our school leadership – including the union leaders – has decided it is better to lay off young, promising teachers and staff members than to ask all employees to accept a small rollback in their raises.
Our spending trajectory is getting further out of whack each year, meaning this most certainly won't be the last levy request we see. In fact, School Board members signaled that the next levy request might be in only two years, and I think that it very likely will be for more than 10 mills unless both the growth of student population and the growth in spending are brought under control.
These aren't new issues – they've been building for a number of years. Few of us – me included – have been paying any attention to the fiscal operations of our school district. We've been asleep at the switch. The mess that has taken years to develop can't be fixed simply by voting NO on the levy and letting these cuts take place. They're the wrong cuts being made for the wrong reason.
The better solution is to pass this levy (Issue 78), then all get to work taking back control of community and our school district. The more successful we are, the longer it will be until the next levy needs to appear on the ballot.
Actual Posting Date: Monday, Sept 29, 2008 - 35 days before the General Election and the day before Early In-Person voting begins. By post-dating this article, it will remain at the head of the blog until the election. I don't think there's anything more important to be said before then. But please scan down for articles published between 9/29 and 11/4 .... pl