Monday, April 22, 2013

Rural Ohio residents often say no to school property tax increases; is that a remnant of consolidation?

Despite performing well on state tests, and receiving high marks from the state, some rural school districts in Ohio can't pass tax levies, Ida Lieszkovszky reports for State Impact, a collaboration of public radio newsrooms.

Some rural Ohio schools haven't passed a levy since the 1970s, and one district, Warren Local Schools, has passed just 20 percent of requests for local money, compared to 51 percent in Franklin County, home of Columbus, and 43 percent in Cuyahoga County, home of Cleveland, she writes. (Lieskovsky photo: Warren school has no walls or doors between classes)

Warren Local is in Washington County, which borders West Virginia and has a per capita income of just over $23,000, compared to $56,000 for teachers in an area where only 15 percent of residents have a bachelor's degree or higher, Lieszkovszky reports. With no doors or walls between classrooms, schools use bookshelves and lockers to separate classes. Still, locals think the school has enough money, and have continually voted down levies. As a result, two school buildings were closed, teacher wages were frozen, 90 positions were eliminated, and high-school busing has been cut.

Some blame consolidation for the rift between residents and the school districts, Lieszkovszky writes. In the 1960s smaller schools were combined to make larger ones, and some residents felt they lost their "a significant part of their social life and local identity." Since then, residents have continued to hold a grudge when property taxes are put on the ballot, she writes. (Read more)

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