School Funding Needs Sweeping Reform

Forget about the fact that, as homeowners, we pay $2,129.00 out of our $4,445.00 annual property taxes for Parma City School District (PCSD) students for a home that has seen three value reductions but no tax reductions – AND WE HAVE NO CHILDREN WHO MIGHT BENEFIT FROM IT.

Forget about the fact that we cannot get out of our driveway for approximately half an hour twice every school day because of Hillside Middle School traffic – AND WE HAVE NO CHILDREN WHO MIGHT BENEFIT FROM IT.

Forget about the fact that most school districts have a person or department to whom or which strapped homeowners may appeal for special reductions in levy collections after the fat Cuyahoga County Board of Revisions refuses to reduce based on decreased home values (though the state has to come in every six years and do it for them). But colossal PCSD doesn’t. This writer/homeowner tried this year, and the head of finance at PCSD laughed off the request. He even told me no one has ever asked this before. Maybe that’s the problem.

We are considered low-income. An astounding 15% of our annual gross income goes to property taxes!

We need sweeping, radical reform in PCSD school funding, and overall school funding in Ohio. How?

First, consider that there was a time when the burden of funding did not rest solely on homeowners. Businesses and other organizations across Ohio shared in what is the screamingly obvious investment in educating our children. We need to go back to that structure. But that’s not going to happen without an organized coalition, perhaps a PAC (political action committee). A tiny fraction of the money already overspent to the bloated District could be used for our legal services, while we mount unrelenting pressure.

Second, and this is the real paradigm shift that will send parents screaming, those who have children should pay about half of their annual school funding out of pocket. Have kids? Pay for them!

I benefited from public schooling, but it was the 1960s and 70s in Lakewood, where the concentration of Boomers was denser than any other area between New York and Chicago, so the pooling of resources made it mutually beneficial, not freaking robbery. This is Seven Hills in 2014/2015, where residents – overwhelmingly NOT parents of school-aged children – pay astronomically disproportionate monies to PCSD. Parma and Parma Heights boast roughly 90,000 to 100,000 residents; Seven Hills has about 11,000. A recent poll of Seven Hills residents found that almost every home has only two residents, and often, just one. That means they are either elderly/retired/empty nesters/have no children, or single parents with one child. I doubt the latter comprises the bulk. Also, having worked as an instructional assistant and in other capacities in various NE Ohio districts, I can attest that private schooling is incomparably better than public. Oh, the things I’ve seen.

Returning to our property as an example, compare the amount collected by the county for PCSD, to what is collected for Seven Hills: $2,129.00 to $436.00, respectively, 60.65% to 12.44%. And we wonder why Seven Hills cannot make ends meet. It’s sad to think that, for less than one-quarter of what we’re gouged by PCSD, Seven Hills could be robust, with surpluses.

Third, at least half the funding should come from businesses and other organizations.

As a related aside: It’s not legally permitted for our mayor and other officials in Seven Hills to publicly state why, but another, comparatively lesser, reason we’re in trouble involves former mayor Bentkowski’s idiotic, narcissistic lawsuit. By robbing certain city council members and taxpayers, combined with other lingering issues from his administration, he created an unduly burdensome financial AND EMOTIONAL strain on us all. Of course, the loss of state funding and estate taxes, which other communities also now suffer, plus other hardships have made it virtually impossible for Seven Hills leaders to make ends meet. If Bentkowski tries to sue me for writing this, he’ll get nothing; he helped ensure that.

There have been some creative, admittedly unpopular, attempts this year to compensate for the losses, and these levies and certain other measures have failed. (God help us if another PCSD levy is proposed!) Seven Hills is apparently entering 2015 in slightly better shape than expected, but that is a comparative statement.  And, as one who sporadically attends caucus and council meetings here, this writer can attest to just how eye-popping is our crisis. We are one catastrophe away from the nadir. At least our crew is levelheaded now, when it comes to finances. Things are more transparent, and council is more diverse and communicative, partly because members of the public are attending meetings again.

But the financial issues that have sent residents in droves to caucus and council meetings this year remain BECAUSE only a tiny fraction of property taxes collected actually fund Seven Hills. It’s why we should demand a fundamental shift in funding of PCSD, and all districts, so that of existing collections, more goes to the city, and less to the schools. Seven Hills’ situation is unique; we have no major tax base, like Independence does. Property tax collections may be a bigger cause of foreclosures and the hemorrhaging of Cuyahoga County’s population losses than even the evil Big Six greed!

Beware parents: on your way to pick up your bratty, cell-phone addicted teens at Hillside, should you block my driveway again when I am trying to get out and get to work, you may find a nice surprise in the form of a very inappropriate hand gesture. Don’t worry about the influence, your teen already does about 10 way worse things before he or she even gets out of bed every morning. When I was a bratty Lakewood School student, I didn’t get picked up in a warm, dry vehicle by my parents – while they pulled into homeowners’ driveways -- I walked, both ways, even during the infamous 1978 Storm of the Century blizzard.

PARMA CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT: STOP ROBBING SEVEN HILLS, and get the hell out of my driveway and off my street!

Lucy McKernan

Animals first.

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Volume 7, Issue 1, Posted 8:30 AM, 01.05.2015