Oct
12

My notes from last night’s council meeting

Sometimes we have marathon meetings with 3 or 4 weighty issues. Sometimes, we only have about 20-30 minutes of discussion. Last night was the latter. Our longest discussions related to union negotiations and were within Executive Session, which by law are confidential.

Without further throat-clearing, here are my notes from the 10/11/18 Stow City Council meeting:

Downtown Stow – We sent out 10 RFPs to developers who might be interested in partnering with the city on a downtown project. We expect to have a lot more clarity on this subject by mid-November.

Route 8 – ODOT crews will be repaving the berm for another 3 weeks. Of importance to a lot of us northern Stow/southern Hudson residents, they will be installing the Seasons Road traffic signal in the next 45-60 days. Crews will also be patching the freeway so that it is navigable during the winter months, when it will be back to 3 lanes.

Police overtime – Stow is planning to spend an additional $100,000 on police overtime, mostly due to things outside the department’s control, such as one officer going to light duty during pregnancy, another officer’s medical leave, and another officer’s unexpected departure. While overtime sometimes saves taxpayers money (because time-and-a-half is still cheaper than benefits), there are limits to that. I think our police department has done a good job at managing employee time and finding that sweet spot.

Next meeting – Council will meet next on October 25.

Oct
11

TEN IDEAS: Revolutionize School Funding, Incrementally

It’s a constant refrain during election season: “Ohio’s school funding is unconstitutional. What are you going to do about it?”

Then, you’re likely to hear a politician deliver a platitude about “valuing education” and “investing in kids.”

Sounds good, but without concrete proposals, the DeRolph Era will continue to perpetuity. We will continue to have a formula that arbitrarily shafts districts like Woodridge. Districts will continue to require “pay to play” for sports and activities, and will continue to reduce busing service. Senior citizens will continue to battle the constantly rising property taxes, while their income remains flat.

Here’s my unfiltered take on the current state of affairs:

  • It’s abysmal that school districts must ask voters’ permission to fund necessities, such as building maintenance.
  • It’s immoral that senior citizens must regularly decide between the schools and their budget.
  • It’s incredible that the state’s complex funding formula still can’t get it right, in spite of its many caps, guarantees, and variables.

NO MORE PLATITUDES. IT’S TIME TO BLOW IT ALL UP.

I am proposing to shift school funding away from property taxes and toward statewide consumption taxes. Ultimately, the new revenue stream will be sufficient to fund 100% of our K-12 education needs. How do we define our “needs”? We need to constantly be among the top 10 states in school funding. The shift should take place incrementally over the next ten years, so that we can adjust the tax collections to match this number.

What does this mean for you?

  • If you’re a senior citizen, you will be relieved from the constant squeeze of property taxes. In fact, we are going to reduce your property taxes significantly. While people cannot control property taxes, they can control what sales taxes they pay.
  • If you’re a parent, you can count on the state’s assurance of adequate funding, rather than counting on the levy campaign’s success every few years.
  • If you’re a district like Woodridge, where the state share index is an inexplicably low 18%, you are now relieved of a funding formula that has frequent anomalous results.
  • If you’re a student, you can count on the state providing free activities (sports, band, clubs), ordinary busing service, and other basics that previous generations enjoyed.

Other comments on the plan:

  • Obviously, this post is giving a high-level view of the plan. The actual legislation would be complex and include percentages that are subject to negotiation.
  • I would like to maintain a community’s ability to assess a property tax levy–but it should be strictly limited to luxuries, not necessities, because necessities are going to be covered by the state’s additional consumption tax revenue.
  • I would like to completely separate the funding for charter schools from the funding for public schools. Currently, if a student leaves a district to enroll at a charter school, that child’s funding goes with her, but so does some funding that the district never received in the first place. While the district pays out $6,000 to the charter school–the district only received a fraction of that amount with respect to that student (equal to $6,000 x state-share index). The district is worse off than if that student never enrolled in the first place. If we want to fund charters, we need to hold our public schools harmless.

I want you to know: This won’t be easy. If we implement a system like this, it would be the state’s most ambitious education reform in decades.

But I’m not going down to the State House to be just another empty suit. I’m going to be a difference-maker, and I’m going to battle for the future of our kids.

Meeting Notes

Press Releases