This month the citizens of Willoughby have an important decision that will affect the future of our schools. Among several other ballot items on March 17th is Issue 1, the emergency operating levy for the Willoughby-Eastlake Schools. This levy replaces the approximately $8.3 million per year (9% of its annual budget) lost when the State of Ohio eliminated the TPP (Tangible Personal Property) Tax. With the loss of the TPP, the district has lost revenues to fund, among other things, programs, classroom materials, extracurricular activities and middle school resource officers.
School districts across the State of Ohio had faced funding challenges since the 1970s when House Bill 920 froze the revenues received from property taxes. Under HB920, taxes cannot increase as property values rise. To further compound the challenges faced by public schools, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the use of property tax to fund school operations unconstitutional in 1997. More than two decades later, little improvement has been made by the State to offset operational cost increases due to inflation. The district has not asked for additional money for operating expenses since 2012.
The Willoughby-Eastlake School District serves 8,045 students from Willoughby, Eastlake, Willowick, Timberlake, Lakeline and Willoughby Hills. Our school district is the 19th largest in the State of Ohio and the largest in Lake County. The annual budget is over $150 million. For comparison purposes, Mentor Schools serves about 7,800 students with an annual budget of about $162 million, including funds in their Insurance Consortium. Willoughby-Eastlake Schools is educating more students with a lower total cost per pupil than the next closest district.
A 2017 study of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) determined that 26% of home buyers consider the quality of the schools when buying a new home. The study concludes a quality home in a good school district will demand a higher price and have a better resale value than a struggling district. An investment in our schools increases the value of our homes. To many, our homes are our largest personal investment. This levy will cost homeowners 47 cents per day/$100,000 of property value or $14.40 per month. The funds generated by the levy will help to restore the critical services our children deserve.
Facts relating to the funding and expenses of the Willoughby-Eastlake School District are easily retrieved, from both the State of Ohio and the district’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR). These are audited reports, meaning an external and independent accounting firm verifies them.
Our children and our school district need our help. Please remember to vote YES for Issue 1 on March 17th.