School levies are among the biggest issues on the ballot in the upcoming November 5, 2013 election. Ohio schools depend on these levies as an essential funding stream, and many are facing new or additional levies that can be difficult to pass.
Money for Ohio’s public schools comes from three sources: federal funds, state funds, and local tax levies.
“Levies then become the source really of their chief operating funds,” explains Mark Smith of Cedarville University. “For most cases those local schools are very dependent upon those local property taxes.”
Because property taxes vary a lot from district to district, the state Supreme Court has repeatedly found the school funding structure unconstitutional. But despite statewide reforms attempting to even the playing field, including Governor John Kasich’s most recent re-working of the school funding formula, most districts still rely on levy funding. And the governor’s reforms take away state support for levies themselves, which means that while the levy system is now arguably more equitable, levies are more expensive and therefore potentially even harder to pass.
Many districts are having a difficult time with budgets due to state budget cuts and sequestration, plus challenges convincing property owners to agree to new taxes . On November, 2012, voters rejected the majority of school levies in the Miami Valley. In an August, 2013 special election, voters rejected two thirds of school levy requests. In general, new levies are much harder to pass than renewals.
Levies are property taxes that are counted in “mills,” which are the equivalent of $1 per $1,000 taxable property value. Thus, a 5.6 mill levy is equal to a $56 tax per $1,000 of assessed (taxable) property value or $5,600 per $100,000.
School fund levies are on the ballot this year in Beavercreek, Yellow Springs, Troy, Springfield, and seven different Montgomery County districts. Across the state, there are levies up for a vote in 194 districts.
Miami Valley School District Levies on Ballots for November 2013
County: School district name (purpose; type; millage rate)
Butler County: Fairfield (facilities ; additional; .50), Middletown (facilities; additional; .26), Lakota (operating; additional; 5.50)
Champaign County: Triad (one levy for operating expenses, one for improvements; renewal and new; .01), Graham (permanent improvements; renewal; 1.50), Mechanicsburg (permanent improvements; renewal; 5.00) Urbana (permanent improvements; renewal; 3.50)
Clark County: Northeastern (current expenses; new income tax; .01%), Clark-Shawnee (avoid a deficit; additional; 7.59), Tecumseh (emergency; additional; 12.37)
Clinton County: Clinton-Massie (current expenses; new income tax; .01%)
Greene County: Beavercreek (emergency; additional; 6.30), Yellow Springs (permanent improvements; renewal; 1.20)
Miami County: Troy (general improvements; renewal; 1.10)
Montgomery County: Brookville (current expenses; additional; 4.80), Centerville (emergency; additional; 5.90), Huber Heights (current operating expenses; additional; 5.95), Jefferson Township (current operating expenses; renewal; 5.50), Kettering (current expenses; additional; 4.89), Oakwood (current expenses; additional; 5.75), Vandalia-Butler (current expenses; additional; 6.99)
Preble County: Eaton Community (current expenses; renewal income tax; 0.75%), Tri-County North (current expenses; new income tax; 1.00%), Twin Valley (current expenses; new income tax; 0.75%)
Warren County: Lebanon (building and maintenance; additional; .50), Franklin (current expenses; additional; 7.92), Springboro (emergency; renewal; 8.78), Wayne (current expenses; renewal; 14.05)
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for WYSO’s ongoing coverage of levy funding issues that will be on the ballot November 5, 2013.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated there were 195 school levies or taxies on Ohio ballots in November 2013. The Hicksville Exempted Village School District has since withdrawn its tax request; the number has been corrected.