Saturday, April 27, 2013

Commentary on pending school funding legislation:  Posted 4/27/13
I agree with Superintendent Sexton’s point that the Wilmington City Schools (WCS) suffered a unique major reduction in property tax revenue due primarily to the loss of the Air Park tax base. 
As a result of this $650 thousand loss in annual revenue Mr. Sexton feels that the governor realized this when his proposed funding plan increased the WCS state assistance by more than a million dollars in each of the next two years. It is the superintendent’s responsibility to defend the district’s funding and he has done so.

As a side note, I would posit that while the Air Park is a countywide asset only the WCS lost significant revenue from the devaluation of that tax base and thus may deserve special treatment.

As best that I can recall from a phone conversation with Mr. Rosenberger, our state representative, he defended the GOP controlled Houses’ decision to alter the governor’s school financing plan. He stated that there is a limited amount of money in the budget for education and that he represents several very poor school districts that would not get a decent share of that money under the governor’s plan. He agrees that the WCS is a unique situation and that he plans to support separate funding legislation in the future for such hard hit districts. 

I applaud the desire to at least partially equalize funding for poor districts. Several state administrations and legislatures have ignored, for far too long, the Ohio Supreme Court’s finding that school funding based on district property value is unconstitutional.

In my opinion the major negative point in the legislature’s position is the size of the education funding pot. The House wants to eliminate the governor’s sales tax plan that would have generated new revenue, maintain the planned cut in income tax rates and reduce the severance tax on the booming Ohio oil and gas tax extraction industry. Budget constraints are worthy goals but when the basic institution for long-term economic health, education, is short changed, it’s also pound foolish.  It’s no coincidence that the poorest states in the country also have the poorest public education systems.
Paul Hunter    

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