Sunday, October 22, 2000

Suburban schools: grading your levies




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        School tax levies lack the pizazz of a presidential contest or personality fights for political seats at the statehouse or court house. But few decisions on Nov. 7 have more personal and immediate impact than school taxes. These directly affect local schools, children, pocketbooks and even community property values.

        In Ohio, property taxes are still the mainstay of financing public schools, allowing local voters to hold schools accountable for spending and results.


GRADING THE LEVIES
• Suburban schools
• By the numbers
• Edgewood
• Lakota
• Little Miami
• Loveland
• Norwood
• Talawanda
        Problems and priorities vary widely. Schools have little control over some things that affect student performance. But voters should ask tough questions before approving additional spending.

        Finances, test scores and tax numbers are confusing and tricky to compare. That's why we provide these levy report cards.

        We review 25 performance measures, Ohio's new school report cards, other tax and spending data and a questionnaire answered for us by district officials. We ask questions on behalf of ordinary parents and taxpayers, and then grade the levies to help voters on election day.

        Mostschools willingly share information when asked. Most voters are simply seeking a good education at an affordable price. They're usually willing to pay more taxes if they trust the money is spent wisely.

        On Nov. 7, eight suburban Southwest Ohio school districts have tax levies on the ballot.

        (Cincinnati Public Schools, the area's largest district, has a 6-mill, $35 million-a-year continuing operating levy before city voters. We endorsed that levy in an earlier editorial.)

        Today, we examine the six suburban school levies seeking operating money and provide a summary of two other districts' ballot issues for building or maintenance money.