CANTON, OH (January 19, 2009) - The mechanism for keeping pace with inflation has broken down in Stark County's schools. That is one of the conclusions drawn by the School Funding Task Force of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce. The Task Force released a 32-page report today.
Generally speaking, when properties increase in value, the yield from existing taxes on those properties does not grow. State law prevents it. Only new taxes can capture the higher value. This compels school districts to periodically seek a tax increase to keep up with the rising cost of doing business. However, in the last three years, 2006 through 2008, only two of 31 requests for new property tax revenue were approved by voters in Stark County.
The Task Force believes this phenomenon needs to be studied for statewide implications, and it needs to be considered as Gov. Ted Strickland proposes reforms for school funding.
In another area of study, the Task Force concluded that public schools need help in communicating with the communities they serve. Public schools in Stark County have a good story to tell. Schools have a record of increased achievement, increased collaboration and creative efforts to save money. But educators on the Task Force admitted that they don't have the time to regularly communicate these messages. The Canton Regional Chamber believes educational accomplishments are linked to economic development. As a result, the Chamber intends to work on a new communications effort involving education and economic development in 2009.
The 34-member Task Force first convened in September 2007 and concluded its work in November 2008. The Board of Directors of the Canton Regional Chamber accepted the report at a meeting in late December.
“The Chamber got into this because of our interest in education from an economic development standpoint,” said Dennis P. Saunier, president and CEO of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, and a Task Force member. “When we saw levy after levy failing, we wanted to see what we could do as a community to look at revenues and expenses. I'm ultimately pleased with the overall process because it opened the eyes of many who didn't realize what already was being done in our schools to cut expenses and collaborate," Saunier added.
The Task Force examined the collaborative purchasing and programming that the Stark County Educational Service Center offers to the 17 school districts in Stark County. Central to this collaborative purchasing is the negotiation of a health insurance package that covers 14,000 people. Task Force members advocated increased contributions by school employees to the cost of their health insurance.
The Task Force also examined school spending in terms of per-pupil expenditures. It ranked those expenditures within Stark County, compared each district to peer districts in the state and compared Stark County's average per-pupil costs to average costs in similarly sized counties in Ohio.
It also examined the few options that school districts have for raising local money to run school districts, while coming to understand how property tax and property values are integral parts of the school funding formula currently operating in Ohio.
Because of its work, business and education leaders on the Task Force say they are in a more informed position to lobby for educational reform in the Legislature and with Gov. Ted Strickland this year.
"It became apparent through the information that was obtained by the Task Force that, comparatively speaking, our local school districts do a very good job of budgeting the dollars that are provided to them to educate our children," said attorney Randolph L. Snow of Black McCuskey Souers & Arbaugh. Snow is chairman of the Chamber's Education Committee and was a Task Force member. It is also apparent that business can play a role in assisting our districts in lobbying legislators to eliminate state mandates which make it more difficult for local school districts to operate efficiently," Snow added.
The Task Force was an outgrowth of the Chamber's Education Committee. Volunteer leader of the Task Force was Emil Alecusan, CFO of Brewster Dairy and chairman of the Education Committee's Current Issues Subcommittee. The Task Force's researcher, facilitator and author of the final report was David Kaminski, director of business development and strategic projects at the Canton Regional Chamber.
For further information, contact David Kaminski at (330) 458-2059 or firstname.lastname@example.org.