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Your Property Taxes at Work

It’s that time of year again.  Property tax bills have arrived in the mailbox and are due to the county treasurer on or before February 9.  Homeowners can pay their real estate tax directly to the county treasurer or as part of a monthly mortgage payment while renters will have the tax figured into the cost of rent. 

Taxpayers inside the city limits will see that the majority of their property tax is in support of public education. As we celebrate Public Education week January 21-27, 2018, let’s remember how important a public education is to a thriving and healthy democracy.  Public schools are here to educate all of our children, are paid for by all of our taxes, and are governed by democratically and locally elected public school boards.

 Our Founding Fathers believed in the importance of public education and the necessity of society as a whole to support public education. John Adams, the second President of the United States said, “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.” John Adams also said, “Laws for the liberal education of youth . . .  are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.” 

Benjamin Franklin, signer of the Declaration of Independence said, “If a man empties his purse into his head no man can take it from him” and “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

In Ohio, public schools are funded through a shared state and local method.  Although this funding method has been declared unconstitutional 4 times since 1994 due to an over reliance of property taxes as compared to funding from the state, it is the method we still have. Article VI Section 2 of the Ohio Constitution, states that “The General Assembly shall make such provisions, by taxation, or otherwise, as, with the income arising from the school trust fund, will secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state.”

Each public school district in Ohio receives a different amount of money from the state for a student.  The amount of funding a public school receives is determined through a complicated formula that includes both the personal income of residents in the district and the property valuation for the entire district. The formula then compares those same factors to a statewide amount to determine a percentage for the districts funding.

This school year, 2017-2018, Norwalk City SD is receiving a base amount of $3,619 from the state for each student.  The state adds money to this base amount for students with special needs, economic disadvantages, and limited English proficiency.  The state also funds a portion of pre-school students, gifted identification, transportation and career tech programming.

The State of Ohio receives the majority of its revenues from income tax and the state sales tax which are redistributed back to school districts as state funding of schools.

In the Norwalk City School District, property taxpayers provide 27% of the operating funds.  The operating funds are used by the school district for all instructional expenses.  A part of the property tax paid is specifically set aside for permanent improvements and to pay the bonds that funded the construction of Norwalk High School.  A traditional income tax is paid by all residents of the school district and funds 7% of operating expenses.

In comparison, the state is providing 59% of Norwalk’s operating funds.  The federal government provides zero operating funds to schools although they do provide restricted grant funding.

While the debate continues about the correct base cost of an education and the proportion of funding schools should receive from the state versus from the local level, keep in mind the public responsibility we all have to the public good which includes public education. Whether it is through local property taxes or statewide income and sales taxes, we all need to support our local public schools.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, our third President of the United States, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

written by:

Joyce Dupont

Norwalk City School District Treasurer