by Tom Birdwell
Ohioís school funding systemÖ what can one say? Anyone who follows current events must be aware that our school districts repeatedly return to the voters for funding approval. Levy after levy after levy. Why is this necessary? What is the root problem?
Over two decades ago, in response to a period of high home price inflation, the Ohio Legislature passed House Bill 920. This well intended piece of legislation rolls back property tax rates in an inflationary environment. But does this make sense? The result of these roll-backs is that school tax revenues do not keep pace with inflation. In response, our school districts must return to the voters with levy after levy, just to maintain the fiscal status quo. The sheer number and frequency of these ballot issues cause many in the public to believe that our school tax rates have increased dramatically in recent years. But available data proves this is not the case. Letís take a look.
Two years ago, all Butler County schools joined together in a study of the results of HB920. The effort yielded clear and absolute proof that this billís flawed tax roll-backs, and its subsequent school operations levys, have together accomplished absolutely nothing. Our school tax rates remain almost exactly at previous levels. Here are the numbers.
Looking at Butler County in whole, had House Bill 920 never been enacted, its roll-backs eliminated, and every operations levy passed since then removed, the total fifteen year collections through 2005 would have been. $1,627,407,353. Actual tax collections, including the roll-backs, and each and every levy passed during this period, were $1,633,834,233.
The difference? It is less than one half of one percent. Thus our actual tax rates and collections remain virtually exactly as they would have been had HB920 never been put in place, and all subsequent school operation levys eliminated. Think of how much effort has been wasted because of this flawed law. Imagine what could have been accomplished if our school leaders could have put their collective efforts into improving education of our kids, instead of fighting for their districtís fiscal survival every couple of years.
Four times the Ohio Supreme Court has declared our stateís school funding system to be so unfair as to violate our stateís Constitution. Four times this court has referred the subject to the Ohio Legislature for correction. We are still waiting for their action. Until corrections are made in state law, our school districts will have no choice but to continue to return to the voters time after time, seeking passage of levy after levy, just to maintain tax rates at previous levels, meeting the demands of price inflation.
Are you tired of all the senseless battles over school funding? Contact your representatives in the Ohio Legislature, as well as Governor Strickland. Make them understand that you find todayís situation unacceptable. Until they correct our stateís school funding system, the senseless school funding dance will continue unabated. We simply canít afford to continue this process. Our kids deserve more from us.