Columbus City Schools says it would lose millions if state tax legislation becomes law

Columbus City school district buses are parked at the Moler Transporation Services Center in Columbus in this 2019 Dispatch file photo.
Columbus City school district buses are parked at the Moler Transporation Services Center in Columbus in this 2019 Dispatch file photo.

The Columbus City Schools Board of Education said Tuesday that the district would lose $5.5 million in property tax revenue if proposed legislation passes in the Ohio General Assembly.

The board also opposes two other school funding bills currently receiving hearings in both the Ohio House and Senate, saying "Ohio taxpayers and local communities will bear the brunt of having to subsidize parent choice for those parents who choose to never enroll their children in Ohio’s quality public schools."

Columbus City school board President Jennifer Adair said the board unanimously passed a resolution asking Gov. Mike DeWine and his Republican colleagues who control the Ohio General Assembly to fully commit to the Fair School Funding Plan, which was passed in the biennial budget as a funding model for public schools. She said the state should prioritize the vast majority of Ohio students who use public schools.

"We still do not have a funding mechanism that adequately supports those students," Adair said. "Yet our legislature and those leaders are moving that money to support private and nonpublic schools."

Adair said the public should be aware of what the state legislature is working on and how it will impact public schools funding.

"It all adds up, and we all need to be paying attention to it," Adair said.

District could lose $5.5 million in first year of House Bill 1, board says

House Bill 1 would flatten Ohio's income tax down to a single rate, and also proposes eliminating two different subsidies that Ohio pays toward local property taxes, which cost about $1.3 billion annually, to cover the cost of the income tax cuts.

On a $100 property tax bill, Ohio currently covers $10 through a nonbusiness property rollback and another $2.50 in a homestead rollback for living in the house. The taxpayer pays the other $87.50. HB 1 would eliminate the 10% rollback and convert the 2.5% rollback to a flat fee of $125. For homes valued around $300,000 or higher, the homestead change would result in a modest tax increase.

This means less funding for local public schools and services that rely on property taxes for revenue.

The issue is further complicated by House Bill 920, a 50-year-old law designed to prevent tax increases from occurring during property reappraisal. Reduction factors are applied to levies approved by the voters and create a credit, so the millage rate remains the same if the school district's value increases during the state required reappraisals and updates conducted by county auditors.

Proponents of the Ohio Republican tax plan say that local levies throughout Ohio would automatically increase to keep their total collections equal to previous years.

Columbus City Schools estimates that if House Bill 1 passes, the district would lose more than $5.5 million in property tax revenue the first year and that it would cost Columbus City Schools’ residential taxpayers approximately $20.93 million due to the application of the H.B. 920 reduction factors.

Board member Eric Brown said that the bill would place the burden on Columbus and other local communities rather than high-income taxpayers.

"I view House Bill 1 as an existential problem for public education in Ohio," he said. "And if it were to pass, we would decline rapidly."

Board says Republican backpack bill plan 'excessive'

The board also opposes House and Senate Bills 11. House Bill 11, a "backpack bill," creates a scholarship fund for students to attend nonpublic schools and Senate Bill 11 expands the existing EdChoice scholarships to all Ohio students.

Under House Bill 11, every private school student in Ohio would become eligible for an Education Savings Account that would cover at least part of their tuition starting in fall 2024. If Ohio offered a school voucher to every nonpublic and homeschooled student in the state, it could cost as much as $1.13 billion per year, The Dispatch reported earlier this month.

Brown said the proposed voucher expansion programs would be harmful.

"It hurts public education. Vouchers hurt Ohio," he said.

In Columbus City Schools, more than 20,500 students are enrolled in nonpublic schools, and over 6,600 children who live in the district already attend another school on an EdChoice scholarship, according to 2022 Ohio Department of Education data.

The Columbus City school board's resolution said the proposed state legislation would extend credits at taxpayer expense to families who have never had a student in public school.

"Under a universal Backpack Scholarship Program, Ohio would be authorizing an excessive, and fiscally irresponsible, rebate/refund program that will subsidize families currently paying tuition at private schools as well as home-schooled students," the resolution said.


This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: CCS board says district will lose millions if bill becomes law