Contributed by Kim and Rick Donaldson
We firmly believe that providing a quality education for our children is of utmost importance to the community, and hence deserving of adequate public financial support. However, we also believe it is incumbent on our elected representatives and the administrators they hire to ensure that funding is used efficiently to provide a quality education for our children. So, even though we have supported school levies in the past, we will be voting against the bond issue and tax levies on November 5th. Here are our top 5 reasons:
When you are given a slick sales pitch and rushed to a decision, it’s usually a bad deal. We were first made aware of the high cost of this levy in August, less than 3 months before the vote, by means of a slick postcard. At a mid-September community meeting we were given a sales pitch claiming an urgent need to act now. We later learned that the board had hired a consultant to help them sell their plan. Caveat emptor!
It piles a laundry list of “wants” on top of a relatively small number of “needs” with no apparent regard for cost. The buildings most in need of repair, pre-K to grade 5, get just over half of the budget (52.4%). The remainder of the budget includes things like a M fine arts center at the high school, M turf athletic fields, an 8-lane track at the middle school … not exactly necessities in our opinion. The planning process does not appear to have seriously considered renovation as an option to address the real needs. We will not get a plan that addresses the school’s real needs within a reasonable budget unless we demand it.
Total funding growth has outpaced inflation by 21% from 2006 to 2018. The school board quoted a much lower growth rate in its 12 September presentation by focusing on 2016 through 2019, a period between levies. Now they are asking for another 26%, with a promise that they won’t come back for more for another 3 years. Unless inflation skyrockets in the interim, they’ll be on track to outpace it yet again. (Note: Total revenue includes federal and state revenue in addition to local property tax revenue, so it takes a 42% increase in school property tax to yield a 26% increase in total revenue, i.e. 16.78 mil = 42% school property tax = 26% total revenue.) This does not look like fiscal responsibility or accountability to us.
It’s bad for the community. Loveland’s school property tax is already high. According to Ohio Department of Education data our 2018 effective residential millage rate was higher than 85% of the districts in the state, including Indian Hill, Lakota, Mason, Milford and Sycamore. The additional 16.78 mil tax would move us above over 95% of the districts in the state, including Kings, Madeira and Wyoming. From a property value perspective, a 16.78 mil tax increase will cost an additional .94 per month on a 0,000 home. A prospective buyer would then have that much less to apply to a mortgage payment, which equates to having ,251, or 10.3% less to spend. High taxes reduce home values and drive out businesses.
It’s bad for our children. More money does not necessarily mean better education. A 2014 Cato Institute study showed Ohio SAT scores did not improve from 1972 to 2012 despite increasing inflation-adjusted per pupil spending by 150%. Current Ohio public school comparisons show no correlation between spending and performance after correcting for the strongest factor, the percent of disadvantaged students, which accounts for 71% of the differences among Ohio public school districts. Other studies, summarized by Professor Bruce Baker, show some positive impact of increased spending to reduce class size and/or increase teacher pay, primarily in poorer school districts where both were seriously deficient. Unfortunately, the proposed levy is focused on facilities, not teachers. Unnecessary facilities draw funding away from the classroom. To borrow a phrase from Margaret Thatcher: “… you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
One final thought
We believe that this levy and the manner in which it has been presented are indicative of unconscionable fiscal irresponsibility on the part of the school board and administration. Consequently, no current member of this board will ever again receive our vote. Since they are running unopposed on November 5th, we will leave the school board portion of our ballots blank in the hope that a low vote count will encourage more responsible members of the community to run next time around.
In the spirit of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, who said: “In God we trust, all others bring data”, we have posted a brief presentation of these points with supporting data and source references on Nextdoor.com
Kim and Rick Donaldson live on Paxton Road in Miami Township.
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