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Superintendent: Levy Counters Lack of State Support

Kent City Schools superintendent Joseph Giancola talks about Issue 8, an 8.9-mill levy on the May 7 ballot

Editor's note: this editorial was submitted by Kent City Schools Superintendent Joseph Giancola. Patch does not endorse election candidates or ballot issues.

To read more about Issue 8, the 8.9-mill school operating levy on the May 7 ballot, click on this link.
-Editor Matt Fredmonsky 

State funding of Ohio Schools has been debated for decades. Our local board of education, the Ohio Legislature, and even the Ohio Supreme Court have engaged in heated discussions without 100 percent agreement. The beauty of our democratic freedoms is that we can debate and ultimately work together for the common good of future generations. Public education’s primary goal of nurturing the development of our children must not be lost in the debate about school finance in Ohio.

In this article, I want to point out how state funding overall has not always maintained its share of the bargain as a partner with local boards of education. That is, local communities have been required to make up the difference created by cuts in state funding. Let me explain.

Ever since 1976, Ohio House Bill 920 has curtailed the growth in revenue needed by public schools in order to keep up with inflation. As a result, local boards of education must ask voters for increases in property taxes that were frozen at the level of the last levy. This cycle tends to repeat itself every four years or so. In Kent Schools, we have accepted the challenge of this cycle of property tax requests by stretching our last four-year levy to seven years! Careful fiscal management is our only method to survive the brief levy cycles and flat funding caused by HB920.

Our greatest problem, however, is not that flat funding is impossible to address. Our problem is worse than flat funding. Rather, recent decreases of $2.3 million in state funding to Kent add to the problems of flat budgeting that I described earlier.

I recognize that Kent Schools are asking for an increase in local funding when some citizens may not have had raises in several years. Actually, Kent staff members have taken base salary and wage freezes too. Similarly, you may say that Kent Schools have not had a raise in seven years. In fact, it has had decreases in state funding. With these decreases, Kent Schools cannot keep abreast of increasing expenses such as fuel costs, ongoing facilities maintenance, and operationalcosts of living.

We could accept the state formula if promises were kept. The basic state formula is a legislated amount per pupil multiplied by the number of pupils in a school district. However, other formula calculations reduce the actual amount distributed to school districts. Kent is substantially affected by these reductions.

At the same time that mechanics of state funding can hurt Kent Schools, senior citizens have benefited from the recent expansion of the Homestead Exemption. The Homestead Exemptionis essentially a 25 percent discount on property taxes owed for the first $100,000 of a home’s market value. Senior citizens or permanently disabled persons may take advantage of this discount on owner-occupied homes by a one-time application to the County Auditor.

As Kent citizens, we need to understand why an 8.9-mill levy is on the May 7 ballot. Local taxpayers are being asked to support their schools partially because the state has not been an equal partner in funding its commitments to Kent Schools.

Even those on a limited income or with no school-age children have important reasons to support Kent Schools. In our recent 2012 Community Survey, 97 percent of respondents agreed that the high quality of our schools has a direct effect on home property values. Also, 92 percent of respondents agreed that the quality of education in Kent is worth their tax dollars.

As Superintendent and ultimate spokesperson for Kent’s children, I want to close with a commitment to Kent taxpayers. Our sole purpose is the education of Kent children. All of our programs, extracurriculars, and transportation are designed for that purpose. Our singular mission is doing what is best for students. Transforming these words into action is what’s needed right now. “Let’s invest in excellence today!”

Joseph Giancola
Superintendent, Kent City Schools 

The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! May 04, 2013 at 01:23 PM
Apparently you don't know any teachers working within the school district.
Teresa K. May 04, 2013 at 01:32 PM
Dooley: re: "The Ohio supreme court ruled funding schools through property taxes was unconstitutional".... and yet, if you dont pay your property taxes w/ the school tax included they also say your home will be foreclosed on. I think Ohio is one of 3 ??? states that fund schools this way. ( I'm not sure how old that decision was from the Ohio Supreme court. Maybe someone else does? )
iloveohio May 04, 2013 at 01:45 PM
What actions are you talking about Rick? You keep making comments but you don't back anything up with facts.
iloveohio May 04, 2013 at 02:04 PM
VOTE YES. No one wants more taxes, but, when you're deciding what your priorities are, children should come first. They are our future, and we need them to be well educated so our country can compete in a global economy. Teachers have a minimum of a bachelor's (4-year) college degree and most have master's (5-year) degrees on top of that. Administrators have a minimum of a master's degree and many have education specialist degrees (6-year) and doctorates (8-year) on top of that. Teaching is not an easy job; however, it's just like anything else, the more you practice, the better you get. You want seasoned educators in the classrooms along with young progressive teachers so they can bounce ideas off of each other. In other words, you don't want all first and second year teachers just because they don't cost as much as teachers who have been in the classrooms for years. If you go into some of these other districts that have made drastic cuts to their budgets, you will see that the children are not getting the education they need to compete globally. Kent is very diverse, and our children are very fortunate to have the experience of working and socializing with people from so many different cultures; that alone puts them far ahead of students who come from small, homogeneous districts where everyone basically comes from the same background. Now, we need to continue to give them the education they deserve.
Confederate American May 05, 2013 at 02:08 AM
I know lots of teachers . Elementary School teachers making 70k with a 50 percent pension. And you want more money
Confederate American May 05, 2013 at 02:15 AM
Our teachers are awesome and we have a very good system. I am voting no because I have to pick up the tab because of the tax abatement. I just don't have the extra money either. I know the teachers get paid very well and they should because a masters degree is required. The school system works very well. I think the city should cover the tax breaks given, not me. Their salaries are pretty good, but not more money just because.
Proud_Kent-Father May 05, 2013 at 11:15 AM
As a nation, we pay for many things through taxes, but school levies are among the few things where voters may have a direct impact. On May 7, the citizens of Kent can continue to make a difference. Vote for this levy!
SupportKentsKids May 05, 2013 at 11:35 AM
My husband and I will be voting YES for this levy. Kent City schools has done a wonderful job. They NEED this funding in order to continue to do so. This is an investment in our future. A vote of YES will be a statement of support for Kent, for community, and for our kids. Everyone's education was funded by the generation(s) that came before them. This is no different."Taxes are what we pay for civilized society" (Oliver Wendell Holmes). Supporting the education of our children is one way to ensure that our society continues to be productive, competitive in the global marketplace, and yes, civilized.
FillerUp May 05, 2013 at 12:47 PM
Mr. Confederate - you sound a lot like someone who teaches in a neighboring community. Pretty sad that an educator would be making these remarks, let alone using a name like Mr. Confederate Man. See ya at church TA
iloveohio May 05, 2013 at 02:40 PM
Well said, SupportKentsKids. I am always surprised when I see school personnel being attacked any time a levy is on the ballot. Why is that? I also notice that these same people (and there really are only a handful who are so negative) have a history of making these types of derogatory comments on this site no matter what the issue is. I know that the school funding issue is frustrating; I don't think anyone disputes that, but I also know that, if I have to prioritize where my dollars are going, I'm going to put my money on the future of our community and vote yes for our children. They will be the decision makers of the future, and I want them to have the best education possible so they can make thoughtful, intelligent decisions. Our country relies on the public education system to prepare our future leaders to take over the reins of this country when their time comes. As I've stated before, we are fortunate in Kent in that our children learn in a culturally diverse environment which prepares them to compete in a global economy. We need to further our commitment to our children by voting yes for this levy so they can continue getting the best education possible to prepare them to be the future leaders of our community and our country.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! May 05, 2013 at 03:02 PM
A teacher who spent their life teaching children and jumping through the ever increasing educational requirements (which they pay for, hello Masters Degree, cha-ching) isn't supposed to be properly compensated for their work?
Teresa K. May 05, 2013 at 03:19 PM
We have the school levy that wants a chunk from our property taxes. We have the police levy that wants a chunk out of the paycheck. And isn't there something coming up for the Portage County Jail in the near future. Is the recession over or where is everyone getting their money to pay for all this? It's so exciting! The Tax Trifecta. Pay to educate us but keep us poor.
Kathy Wilen May 05, 2013 at 08:18 PM
What areas would that be? Kathy W.
Proud_Kent-Father May 06, 2013 at 10:43 AM
Unfortunately, Columbus took money away and never gave it back. I'm voting yes for Kent Schools.
James Thomas May 06, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Mars, I have a Masters of Library Science Degree and 27 years of experience and teachers are making 50% more than I am per year with benefits I can't come close to. Is there perhaps a Union forced disparency?
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! May 06, 2013 at 08:59 PM
Maybe you should join the union?
Sue May 07, 2013 at 11:54 AM
This is the day. Let's vote YES! Support our schools.
Sue May 07, 2013 at 11:56 AM
We are the city. We are the ones who fund the schools. We benefit all of us by voting YES!
Sue May 07, 2013 at 11:57 AM
Teachers have had wage freezes for years. Of course they deserve more money. And entering teachers do not make 70K. Vote YES.
Sue May 07, 2013 at 11:59 AM
Paying teachers is not a waste! We get enormous values from good teaching. Vote YES!
Sue May 07, 2013 at 11:59 AM
Vote YES! We need to fund our schools. This is no time to be selfish. Yes for our children.
Sue May 07, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Don't be stingy. Vote YES for our children!
James Thomas May 07, 2013 at 01:19 PM
And we get enormous harm from supporting the Teacher's Unions. Just ask the residents of Strongsville.
James Thomas May 07, 2013 at 01:35 PM
iloveohio, the children never come first when the Union is involved. The Union and only the Union comes first when money is involved. It cracks me up when Progressives decry "corporate" influence but give corrupt Union influence a pass.
James Thomas May 07, 2013 at 01:44 PM
Mars, when a job opening at the Portage County District Library occurred, that I was qualified for, I did not even think about applying for it because it was with a unionized system. I have no inclination to work with a Union enforced beauracracy that appropriates my money to use for purposes that I not only don't support, but actively oppose. When Levies for Library service were on the ballot in 2012, Kent and Ravenna passed theirs. Portage County District Library System's Levy got shot down. Could there be a Union connection here?
James Thomas May 07, 2013 at 01:51 PM
Proud_Kent-Father Unfortunately, Columbus didn't have the money to give and it won't come back until the economy can support it. When government must live within its means (like Ohio Must) then how can you expect that the government CAN give what it does not have? You can choose to give your support to the levy, that's your right. Don't blame the State of Ohio for not giving what it does not have to give. That's like asking outer space to supply you with your next breath, it's just not going to happen.
James Thomas May 07, 2013 at 02:02 PM
Mars, "Maybe you should join a Union?" and be a greedy, public trough teat-sucking parasite? Not my style.
Sue May 08, 2013 at 01:47 AM
The school levy has passed. This is great news for the children of Kent. Thanks to everyone who voted for the levy.
Jim Williams May 08, 2013 at 02:05 AM
Glad to see that 17% of Kent citizens were able to muster the energy to bother voting, and that the majority of those few supported this very important issue. Congrats to the District for making the convincing argument. It's pretty clear that the chorus of "NO" that exists here on Patch is not representative of the majority.
Concerned Citizen May 08, 2013 at 02:58 AM
Good voting LD

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