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Local school districts dealing with huge financial challenges

Published: Sat, October 27, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Here’s a sobering reality about public education in Ohio that should open the eyes of voters in the Nov. 6 election: There will be 194 school levies on the ballot, including 123 seeking additional funding. The rest are renewals or continuations of taxes now on the books.

But that’s only part of the bad news confronting local school districts. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the 194 levies represent the highest percentage of new taxes in at least the past decade.

The Dispatch also notes that less than a third of the levies requesting new money have been approved since 2003. Renewal levies have a pass rate of 90 percent.

It doesn’t take a doctorate to figure out what’s going on in communities around the state: Taxpayers are in no mood to give schools or other public entities more money to operate.

It doesn’t matter to them that state funding has been slashed by about $800 million in the current biennium budget passed by the Republican controlled General Assembly and signed into law by Republican Gov. John Kasich.

It also makes no difference to most taxpayers that schools districts have imposed deep cuts in spending. They just don’t want to pay any more for schools.

Recognizing the economic stress people have been under because of the national recession, The Vindicator is not taking a position on the new levies being sought by school districts in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. We believe that each voter should make decision based on his or her own economic condition.

On the other hand, we urge passage of all the school tax renewals because depriving the districts of the money they now receive will affect the education of the students.

Given that at least 80 percent of a system’s operating budget goes for salaries and benefits, a reduction in the teaching workforce is inevitable.

And while there are some politicians who do not believe that class size makes a difference in the way students learn, scholarly studies have put such faulty thinking to rest.

In Mahoning County, six district have levies on the general election ballot. Of those, four are seeking additional revenue: Boardman, Jackson-Milton, Poland and Springfield.

Jackson-Milton is also asking voters to renew a 4.9-mill operating levy for five years. The tax would generate $988,485 a year, which is needed to avoid an operating deficit.

South Range, also hoping to avoid an operating deficit, is seeking the renewal of a 2.4-mill levy for 10 years. It is expected to generate $430,555.

In an earlier editorial, we urged the residents of the Youngstown City School District, which recently climbed out of state mandated fiscal emergency and is currently under state academic watch, to not hesitate in renewing a 10.4- mill tax. It would be in effect for four years and would bring in $5.29 million.

Defeat of the levy would deliver a crippling blow to the troubled urban school district.

In Trumbull County, voters in seven districts will have to decide just how important public education is to their communities.

There are residents in precincts in the Jackson Milton district who will vote on the additional and renewal levies.

Likewise, voters living in one precinct in Mesopotamia Township will vote on renewing Cardinal Local School District’s 9.7 mills for five years.

Champion and Mathews school districts are seeking additional revenue to meet emergency expenses.

Howland Local has the renewal of the 8.1- mill levy on the ballot. It would be in effect for 10 years and would generate $5.05 million.

Joseph Badger is asking voters to renew a 3.6-mill levy to generate $425,379. It would be in effect for 10 years.

These are challenging times for individuals and for school districts and other public entities. But, when the future of a community is inextricably tied to the strength of the school system, residents should take the time to examine the tax issues closely.

The Vindicator supports approval of the renewals.

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