ELIDA — Breaking down an Allen County report on tax valuations and levies, Elida schools Treasurer Joel Parker claimed more work needs to be done with the state’s school funding formula after focusing on three sets of numbers in local funding for school board members.
Using data provided by the Allen County Auditor’s Office, Parker created a chart showing valuation per pupil, agricultural and residential tax rate for operating expenses and expense per pupil for each school district in the county.
“I wanted to reflect on the fact that we are still one of the most efficient schools in Allen County with us spending $8,150 per student per year, and I wanted the board to have a grasp of that,” Parker said after Wednesday’s reorganizational board meeting. “I think it gets confusing when you look at property valuations, the make-up of our students, the different sub-groups of our students in our system and the poverty of our district, but I just think it all comes back to what is that expense per pupil and there are very few schools in the state of Ohio that are spending less than we are.
“I think we are delivering a quality kindergarten through 12th grade education for $8,150 per student,” the district treasurer said. “We are getting a lot done for that money.”
In Parker’s chart, Elida ranked seventh out of the nine schools in the county in per-pupil expense. Lima schools spent the most with $11,972 per pupil, with only Delphos schools at $7,673 and Allen East schools at $7,669 spending less than Elida.
In property valuation per pupil, Elida ranked third at $137,098, trailing Perry schools at $196,387 and Shawnee schools at $161,123. Lima schools ranked last at $56,379. Shawnee ranked first in overall valuation at $411 million and Elida second with $355 million, while Delphos ranked last with $110 million.
In regard to the agricultural and residential tax rate for operating expenses, Elida is fourth in the county at 27.83, with Lima schools the highest at 33.75 and Spencerville the lowest at 20.02. Parker made it clear to board members that Spencerville also has an income tax to help with expenses.
Reviewing data from districts throughout the state, he said the way the state school funding formula is written “it assumes those districts with higher property wealth can generate taxes easier, therefore, those districts get less state aid.” This requires school boards overseeing schools with higher property valuation to seek more local tax levies to meet their obligation of educating their students and operating their schools. He claimed this is a difficult analysis to explain to voters.
In his research, Parker discovered 40 school districts in southeastern Ohio with higher poverty rates and higher unemployment than Elida are spending at least $2,000 more per pupil than Elida because state aid makes up the difference, which he feels still isn’t equitable.
“I think all schools think there still needs to be work done on the funding formula, and I think it is complicated because we are all a little bit different in regard to demographics and data from the students who are coming here to the tax bases from open enrollment to a whole host of factors to consider,” Parker said. “The bottom line is as we are still dealing with that loss of manufacturing in Ohio and we are dealing with Ohio wanting to be competitive by cutting taxes — but the reality is that as the taxes get cut at the state level it puts pressure on most local districts to try and recoup those dollars.”