Thursday, December 21, 2000

School options include statewide property tax

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Ohio would fund its public schools by replacing a portion of local property taxes with a statewide property tax under one plan being considered by Gov. Bob Taft, his office confirmed Wednesday.

        Under the plan, the state also would distribute business and utility taxes on equipment, machinery and inventories statewide rather than continue to give them mainly to the districts in which the businesses are located.

        Ohio faces a June 15 deadline to respond to an Ohio Supreme Court decision that ruled the state's school-funding system unconstitutional. The court has twice ruled that the system relies too much on local property taxes, creating disparities between rich and poor districts.

        “It's something we need to look at,” budget director Tom Johnson said. “The court talks about local property taxes — the question is, is the court implying these should be statewide property taxes? That's what many people have concluded.”

        Mr. Johnson and Kevin Kellems, Gov. Taft's spokesman, said the plan is one of several options under consideration.

        The governor is also considering recommendations from a legislative committee that proposed increasing the amount state and districts spend on students, Mr. Kellems said.

        The committee's report recommended increasing that annual amount $152, to $4,566 per child in fiscal year 2002.

        The statewide property tax plan was reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Any changes would be phased in, and the state would guarantee that funding for school districts would not drop during that period.

        The state would replace the first 20 mills of local property taxes with a 20-mill statewide tax. Districts would be able to levy additional local taxes.

        The business and utility taxes account for 28 percent of all property taxes collected. Eventually, businesses would be taxed at the same statewide rate instead of different local rates.

        Suburban lawmakers and school officials argue that their tax bases would shrink if they can no longer use the business taxes locally, making it harder for them to pass local levies.


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