May 31, 2011

Comments from a Washington County school official at the May 24 One Ohio Now meeting in Athens

Bob Caldwell, superintendent of the Wolf Creek Local School District in Washington County, explained at the Tuesday, May 24 One Ohio Now meeting about the state budget proposal that the current budget plan takes away funding that was promised to schools and local governments, and also brings additional cuts for schools.

“Many years ago, we were asked to do more with less,” Caldwell said, referring to the numerous budget cuts public schools have sustained over the years. “And then it became even less.”

In 2001, the Ohio General Assembly created the kilowatt-hour tax as part of the deregulation plan for electric utilities in the state. The tax was designed to replace the funding previously brought in by the public utility excise tax on electric companies. The new tax was paid by consumers, rather than by the utility companies, and state leaders explained at the time that it was being used to keep funding in place for schools and local governments.

Since 2001, though, the schools and local governments have seen their share of the kilowatt-hour tax revenue decrease, and now it is being taken away completely in the new budget. According to Caldwell, taking this tax funding away from schools causes his district to lose out on nearly $1 million.

“They are still charging you and me the kilowatt tax,” he added. The money from the tax, though, isn’t going to schools and local governments as originally promised.

“It’s not going toward what they said it was going to go to,” Caldwell said, adding that the funding is now being used to cover other state budget items.

Caldwell also discussed one of the problems with the current funding model for public schools in Ohio. Public schools rely a great deal on local property taxes, but the amount of taxes can vary greatly from one school district to the next.

In Upper Arlington, for example, 1 mill of property taxes brings in $1.6 million

In the Wolf Creek district, 1 mill of property taxes brings in $131,000

In the Trimble Local School District, 1 mill of property taxes brings in just $41,000.

The state’s school funding system has been declared unconstitutional four times, but it still has not been corrected, Caldwell added. He would like to see state leaders make positive changes to the school funding system instead of continuing to take money away from public schools.

“I happen to believe that public education is the essence of a democracy,” Caldwell said.

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