Many school districts and other taxpayer-funded public-service agencies have taken a beating in recent years from cutbacks in state and federal funding, rising costs and other factors that have battered their bottom lines.
Despite those hits, the governing bodies of those entities increasingly have shown a reluctance to reach out to voters for additional property, income or sales-tax dollars.
And so it is again this fall, when voters throughout the Mahoning Valley will face a paucity of additional tax levy requests for schools. For example, among the some four dozen public school districts in the Valley, only two – Niles and Southington – are seeking additional support from residents.
It appears then as if many school districts have gotten the message that taxpayers are holding public school systems increasingly accountable to run a tight financial ship, and school leaders are responding by working more carefully to live within their means before launching campaigns for more local revenue.
Take the case of the Poland Local School District, one of the highest performing districts in the Valley and the state. In recent years, the board has downsized the physical plant and cut staff through attrition to compensate for decreased outside funding and declining enrollment.
Nonetheless, without voter support for a five-year renewal of a 6-mill levy first approved by voters 14 years ago, the school system would face a significant deficit, and student services would likely suffer.
“It would be devastating for us for it not to be renewed,” said district Treasurer Janet Muntean.
Clearly, school districts cannot be expected to maintain quality educational environments and 21st-century programs if their budgets face marked declines in operating revenue.
That is why the pleas of Poland and several other school districts in the Valley with levies to renew standing property tax rates are understandable. Oftentimes, they are urgent. Voters in Ohio increasingly are realizing that urgency.
In the May 2017 primary election, for example, 94 percent of all renewal school levies were approved by voters, according to the Ohio School Boards Association.
In addition to Poland, those districts in the Valley seeking renewal levies are Boardman, Canfield, Jackson-Milton and Lakeview.
As for this fall’s additional property tax levies in the Niles and Southington districts, we urge districts to make their case clearly, concretely and transparently to the voters.
Voters, in turn, should make judgments fairly and responsibly.
SCHOOL RENEWAL ISSUES
Boardman Schools: A 1.6-mill, 5-year renewal levy for permanent improvements to raise $1,358,157 annually.
Boardman Schools: A 5.9-mill, 5-year renewal levy for current expenses to raise $4,895,829 annually.
Canfield Schools: A 5.9-mill, 5-year renewal levy for current expenses to raise $3,376,772 annually.
Jackson-Milton Schools: A 4.9-mill, 5-year renewal levy to avoid an operating deficit to raise $988,485 annually.
Jackson-Milton Schools: A 0.9-mill, 5-year renewal levy for permanent improvements to raise $82,454 annually.
Poland Schools: A 6-mill, 5-year renewal levy for emergency requirements to raise $2,297,755 annually.
Lakeview Schools: A 2.25-mill, 10-year renewal levy for the emergency requirements of the school district to raise $613,731 annually.
While we do not endorse tax levy increases for schools, residents of Niles and Southington school districts are being asked to approve the following:
Niles Schools: A 9.25-mill, 10-year additional levy for emergency requirements of the school district to raise $2 million annually.
Southington Schools: A 1-mill, 5-year additional levy for improvements to the Chalker building and property to raise $65,898 annually.
There are no school levies – new or renewal – in Columbiana County this election.