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Abatements, tax collections explained at forum
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Reprinted courtesy of the Westerville News & Public Opinion/SNP

ęCopyright Suburban News Publications, Columbus, Ohio, 2003

Originally published October 15, 2003

Abatements, tax collections explained at WeVote forum


The wealthier the district the less state aid it receives, a school funding expert told about 20 people Wednesday, at a forum put on by the community group WeVote.

Dick Maxwell's opening remarks at Genoa Middle School seemed to sum up public sentiment on the school funding issue. He said a friend once told him school funding is like a Russian novel, "It is boring and in the end everybody dies," he said.

Maxwell, who also is an 11-year Westerville resident, attempted to explain Ohio's funding morass, including a brief look at the Ohio Constitution's take on the subject. In short, it is ambiguous, and subject to broad interpretation, he said.

If there was one part of Ohio's school funding laws Maxwell wanted to stress it was that millage rates in a school district are the same in all areas, regardless of local political subdivision. Residents currently pay $1,086 per $100,000 of home valuation -- and that is the same in Genoa Township, Columbus, Minerva Park and Westerville sections of the school district.

Sitting on the panel with Maxwell was Westerville Superintendent George Tombaugh, district Treasurer Dan Shively, Westerville Economic Development Director Shannon Hamons and Westerville Assistant Law Director Gene Hollins.

Hamons said tax abatements in the city of Westerville, contrary to popular belief, actually are good for the school district, and had no negative effects on funding. He gave the example of a Polaris medical office building that will pay the district about $47,000 in 2004. Without abatements the district would have only received about $37,000.

The district still receives money though the business receives abatements because the city is obligated to make 33 percent "payments in lieu of taxes" for all abatements it grants businesses, Hamons said, under its tax-sharing agreement with the district.

Hamons added abatements also keep new buildings built in the school district "off the rolls." Otherwise, new buildings that are not abated would count against the district's calculated per-capita evaluation calculated by the state, lower the state's funding contribution. Therefore, abatements actually maintain state funding levels, he said.

On residential development, it takes about three years for the district to receive full taxes on a new house, Shively said. He used the example of a home that was built in 2000. Initially when land is slated for development, only the land itself taxable. The next year the home is still under construction so the it is only taxed at 50 percent. And finally in the third year when the house is fully completed it is taxed based on its full value.

The problem for the district, Shively said, is that the children in the new house are in the district for at least one or two years before taxes are collected on those students.

It takes about $74,000 to educate a child from kindergarten through senior year in Westerville schools, Tombaugh said, noting the state average is $75,000.

WeVote staged the forum on funding last Wednesday and another Oct. 1 on the Win-Win agreement in order to get out reliable information on critical school district issues, members of the group said. The group is supporting Issue 16, the proposed 7.5-mill, three-year operating levy on the Nov. 4 ballot, which it believes residents will pass if provided with factual information about the district's needs.


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Westerville Voters On Target for Education