Prepared Text for Board Meeting June 9, 2008

Marc A. Schare 614 791-0646 Home

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We as a community have been discussing the concepts of sustainability and affordability since the failure of the 2006 operating levy. When discussing these topics, we need to answer at least three questions. How much, how often and for what?

 

Regardless of the value that Worthington residents place on the school district, there is only so much money to go around. If I want to buy a Lexis and I cant afford a Lexis, I can have 100 justifications for why I need a Lexis, I can agree that a Lexis is a top-of-the-line car and I still wont be able to have one. We tend to run our levy campaigns as an exercise in justification. I would argue that in addition to a justification component, sustainability and affordability are equally important.

 

Here are some statistics. For the period from 2000 through 2005, school district expenditures increased 11% while our enrollment dropped by around 8%. Still, averaging a 2% per year increase is not bad for government work. According to the Ohio Department of Taxation, Worthingtons income (AGI) over the same period increased only 4%, so it is fair to say that even this modest level of spending increase was double the income increase for Worthington residents.

 

The recently approved 5 year forecast shows a spending increase in the range of 5 to 6% annually for the life of the forecast. I think it would be wildly optimistic given the current economy in the state to say that Worthington incomes will increase by 5 to 6% per year, so the question in front of us becomes do we need to try to limit school district spending to something approaching the income levels of our constituents or do we accept that Worthington residents will have to pay a higher percentage of their income to the school district in either increased property taxes or an income tax. As we analyze this, we should keep in mind that according to the Ohio Department of Taxation, Worthington residents already pay the 3rd highest property tax as a percentage of income (2.53%) in the county at 2.53%, surpassed only by Upper Arlington at 2.63% and Hilliard at 2.58%. We even surpass our friends in Bexley at 2.53%.

 

Predictably, I think we need to get at the answer through a community engagement process. While it may be tempting to blame the state, we should resist that temptation if for no other reason than any change to the funding formula is most likely to be negative for Worthington and any real chance for programmatic improvement will be dependent on the state leaving us and our funding alone.

 

We have about 8 months before going on the ballot. In that time, it is my hope that we offer multiple town hall style events that lay out the facts surrounding school district revenue and expenses and try to get at the heart of the question of what is sustainable and what is affordable. I believe if we do that, the justification will take care of itself.