Athens voters have a choice today, and I’m not talking about the Athens City Council candidates. I am referring to Issue 1, which deals with the renewal of the Athens City Schools’ tax levy.
Let’s get some basic facts out of the way first. This levy is a replacement of the current levy; it is not new.
The tax levy “is to be at a rate of no more than 2.9 mills for each dollar of valuation” or $0.29 per $100 that your property is worth. This means that if you had a house worth $100,000, then you would pay $290 to the school district each year for the next five years.
To some, that might sound like a lot. But to me, it sounds like a necessary increase to survive state budget cuts.
Ohio has less money in its education budget this year compared to last year.
This is a fact, no matter what Gov. John Kasich says about increasing education funding. We are losing the Race to the Top federal dollars and not fully replacing them with state funding.
Which leads to another point about education in Ohio. Did you know the way the state currently funds our public schools has been ruled unconstitutional?
It is the opinion of the state Supreme Court that the current system leaves some districts wanting while others have more than they need.
This is easy to explain. A school district such as Federal Hocking in Stewart cannot offer the same education as a school district such as Dublin Scioto in Dublin.
Why? Because the property values of homes in Dublin are exponentially higher than those in Stewart, so the money collected on property taxes is much higher in Dublin. Federal Hocking receives other state funds to try to compensate for some of the disparity, but it is still nowhere near equal.
But Athens City Schools is different. Because of Ohio University, we have a city of thousands that can provide adequate funding to our schools. While it isn’t fully enough, it does a far better job of supplementing state funding than in poorer areas.
This gives Athenians a very direct say over their schools. Either we vote to support them or vote against the levy and deal with the consequences.
Teacher layoffs, bus route reductions and the cutting of academic classes are just a few of the measures the schools might have to undertake to balance the budget.
That is a scary phrase these days, “balancing the budget.”
We all have to do it. From individuals to the state government, we have to make sacrifices. But lately, many of those sacrifices have been coming from those who can’t afford them.
Senate Bill 5 and other forms of legislation have put the hurt on the middle and lower classes, leaving those with more money in richer parts of the state and country to benefit while we suffer. Government services of all forms are being reduced nationwide, from education to Medicare.
But again, we in Athens can stop this. We have the ability to have first-rate public schools that serve thousands of students and pay hundreds of teachers and staff members.
With this levy, as with all other Athens City School levies, you can offer kids in Southeast Ohio a brighter future. There is a minimum threshold of support that education needs to succeed. Consider the doors you can open for local children.
Let’s not be selfish. Let’s improve our local schools and the lives of the children that attend them. Be an optimist and fund someone’s dreams.
Today, vote ‘yes’ on Issue 1.
Will Drabold is a junior at Athens High School enrolled in Ohio University classes and a columnist for The Post. Are you voting ‘yes’ on Issue 1? Email Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.