Monday, November 1, 2010

Tomorrow's Levy Votes

With it being likely that the Hilliard School Board will place an operating levy on the ballot in May, it will be interesting to see what happens with the several school levies which will be on the ballot tomorrow:

New Permanent Levies: (last forever)
  • Bexley: 6.5 mills   PASSED with 60% of vote
  • Gahanna Jefferson: 6.8  FAILED  getting 49% of the vote
  • Grandview Heights: 3.9 mills plus a 2.0 mill Permanent Improvements levy PASSED with 65% of vote
Renewal Levy: Madison Plains, 8 mills, expiring after three years (keeps collecting at current effective rate) PASSED with 56% of vote

Replacement Levy: Pickerington, 8 mills, permanent (a prior levy expires, but is replaced with a new one which lasts forever)  FAILED  getting 49% of the vote

Bond Levy: Groveport Madison, $114 million (to be collected at approximately 6.7 mills for 38 years) FAILED  getting 45% of the vote

Bexley's levy passed by a considerable margin for a school levy, but Bexley is an affluent community and generally gives the schools what they ask for.  Same thing for Grandview Heights.

Madison Plains passed their renewal, which keeps their tax burden the same (ie - their taxes would have gone down had the levy failed). Notice that they put a time-limited levy on the ballot again, meaning that the taxpayers will in three years again have a voice whether to keep sending this amount of money to their schools. I think that increases accountability and forces better communications. Good for them.

Interesting that neither Gahanna nor Pickerington passed their levies. Those communities are much like Hilliard - rapidly growing, relatively affluent bedroom communities without much growth in their commercial tax base to help fund the schools. That means the homeowners are bearing all the burden of growing personnel costs.

The question now will be how the leadership of those districts will deal with the defeat of the levy.  Will they just grit their teeth and try again to push it through?  Will they punish the community with program cuts and service cuts?  Will they approach their unions to see if they can get concessions that will allow a smaller levy to be put on the ballot?


  1. Disappointing to see most of the levies passing. How long will taxpayers be played for fools?

  2. "It's a very tough economy," Gahanna-Jefferson Superintendent Mark White said. "I think a lot of people who voted against it didn't have anything to say against the quality of the schools, but they didn't want more taxes."

    Maybe yes, maybe no? I think taxpayers are becoming better informed about where the money goes, and that more money does not equal a "better" education. Although it is interesting that in Grandview and Bexley, two of the more upper-scale districts, levies were passed overwhelmingly, and Bexley passed a city levy as well. Maybe their purses are a bit deeper than say, Gahanna or Pickerington?

  3. "The question now will be how the leadership of those districts will deal with the defeat of the levy.  Will they just grit their teeth and try again to push it through?  Will they punish the community with program cuts and service cuts?  Will they approach their unions to see if they can get concessions that will allow a smaller levy to be put on the ballot?"

    If history repeats, it will be a combination of the first two. All districts try and try again, and they use the leverage of cuts as a bargaining chip. But of course, what other option do they have, at least in the near term? Not sure where either district is in their contract terms, but pretty sure they are not going to re-work an existing contract. That is an issue that should have been thought of ahead of time - does "5-year Forecast" ring a bell?
    Then again, our own district did not do that 3.5 years ago, the first two options were put into play, and the levy passed in November. I think that methodology is going to become harder and harder to play out in the future - hopefully the boards of those districts (and all others, for that matter) are paying attention. That previously posted Fordham Institute Report should be required reading for all concerned. After all, we all know what the definition of insanity is in regards to history.

  4. It's interestinghow my friend Kelly Kohls down in Springboro is being treated by her fellow School Board members after their levy was defeated.

    Their case seems to be much like ours in the Hilliard School district, where levies tend to be well supported in the part of the district which lies in the City of Columbus, about 50-50 in the part which is in the City of Hilliard, and generally opposed by the folks in the townships.

    Kelly lives in a township outside the City of Springboro, just as I live in Brown Township. What is there about township voters that is different than those who live in the cities?

    I can't speak for Springboro, but around here, the folks in the townships are generally either farming families who have lived in the area for generations, or homeowners who typically live on large hunks of property they bought to get away from the normal subdivisions of 3-5 houses/acre. Both generally have a streak of independence. After all, we have to drill our own wells, deal with our own sewage systems, and plow our own lanes in order to reach the roads when it snows.

    Is that what make township voters less likely to support school levies? Maybe, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that we tend to be a little older - as likely to be grandparents as parents. Many of us have already put our kids through school at a time when buildings were a lot less fancy and teachers got paid much less.

    And because we are older, many of in the townships are more likely to be living on retirement income which has not at all kept pace with the growth in the cost of running our schools. This is also true for the older neighborhoods in the City of Hilliard (there aren't any really old neighborhoods in the part of our district in the City of Columbus - almost all of them have been built since the 1980s).

    There is a palpable class conflict developing in communities such as Springboro and Hilliard - between those working and with school age kids, and those who are unemployed, underemployed, or retired empty nesters. The former tend to support levies, and the latter tend to oppose.

    Unless something unexpectedly good happens very soon in our economy, it will be tough to convince the latter group to continue to sacrifice their money to pay those who are already very well paid - relatively speaking.

  5. It might be tough to convince ANY group if ALL groups were made aware of exactly where the money goes. Not to beat a dead horse, just saying....