Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Many school districts in the Mahoning Valley and throughout Ohio have taken a beating in recent years from cutbacks in state and federal funding, rising costs and other factors that have bashed their budgetary bottom lines.
Despite those hits, school boards increasingly have shown a reluctance to reach out to voters for additional property tax or income-tax dollars.
And so it is again this spring, when voters in the Valley will face a paucity of additional tax levy requests for schools. Among the some four dozen public school districts here, only three – Boardman, Howland and Niles – have additional school levies on the ballot.
It appears then as if many districts have gotten the message that taxpayers are holding public school systems increasingly accountable to run as tight a fiscal ship as possible, and school leaders are responding by working more carefully to live within their means before attempting to dig deeper into their constituents’ pocketbooks.
But clearly, school districts cannot be expected to maintain quality educational environments and 21st-century learning programs if their budget suffers marked reductions in revenue.
That is why the pleas of several districts in the Valley with renewal levies on the ballot are understandable.
We have historically supported school levy renewals, based on the fact that property owners already are paying the tax. Most taxpayers appear to recognize that reality as reflected in results from the November 2017 round of school issues on the state ballot.
Ohio voters then approved 64 of 69 school-renewal issues for a passage rate of 93 percent. Additional levies, however, had a passage rate of 43 percent, down from 56 percent in 2016.
NO ENDORSEMENT OF NEW LEVIES
Next week, residents in the Boardman, Howland and Niles districts will decide whether their schools deserve additional revenue through higher local property taxes. The Vindicator does not take a position on those issues. Rather, we leave up to voters to decide if leaders have made a strong case and if they can afford any additional financial burden.
Here are the tax-renewal issues for schools in the Valley we endorse:
Western Reserve schools: A 4.1-mill, 10-year renewal levy to avoid an operating deficit to raise $425,000 annually.
Joseph Badger schools: A 4.15-mill, 10-year renewal levy for emergency requirements of the school district to raise $550,000 annually.
Mathews schools: A 2-mill, 5-year renewal levy for renovating, remodeling, improving, constructing, adding to, furnishing and equipping school facilities to raise $178,444 annually.
McDonald Schools: A 3.85-mill, 10-year renewal levy for emergency requirements of the school district to raise $200,147 annually.