Voters approved three out of four school levies on the ballot during Tuesday’s general election, but an Ohio economist who studies school funding says some concerning trends are emerging from those results.
Columbus-based economist Howard Fleeter said by his count, 76 percent of the operating levies on the ballot this week were approved by voters. A majority of them, however, were renewals, when a district asks voters to reapprove an old levy for the same amount of money.
Fleeter said renewals are approved more than 90 percent of the time, but they do not provide any new income to schools.
“So, if you’re a school district that needs more money, you've got about a 1 in 4 chance of getting more money, and a lot of districts seem to be not even trying lately,” he said.
They’re not trying, Fleeter said, because new taxes are not popular with Ohio voters. On Tuesday, more than 75 percent of new operating levies failed.
Bond levies, on the other hand, or levies that provide money for capital improvements like school construction and building renovations, have a larger likelihood of passage, even though they result in new money for districts.
Ohio voters approved 64 percent of the new bond levies on the ballot Tuesday.
“People can see when a building in their district needs to be repaired, or upgraded, or expanded, or you just need a new one," Fleeter said, which is why he believes its easier to get the new money approved.
Operating levies support programming, Fleeter said, or other needs in the district that are less tangible. Historically, about half of all operating levies have been approved by voters.