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Columbus City Schools asking voters to back levy

Columbus City Schools asking voters to back levy

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- Supporters of a levy for the Columbus City Schools say without it the city's schools will remain status quo. However, opponents say the district already has plenty of money and needs to live within its means.

Issues 50 and 51 would green light major reforms in the district, which Mayor Michael Coleman describes as "failing," and help pay for those changes.

"It's about comprehensive reform and it sets out in the millage specifically how the millage will be used during the course of that period of time."

Issue 50 would raise property taxes in Columbus by $315 per $100,000 in property value. About 11 percent of that money would fund high-performing charter schools while the rest pays for expanding pre-school, building new schools, upgrading technology, recruiting and retaining teachers, and other programs. If it fails, Coleman says he's been told by district leaders that they'll need to cut $50 million from the operating budget.

"With this passage we'll right the ship," he said.

But levy opponent Michael Young argues that the district has plenty of money already and just needs to do a better job with it.

"They, according to several studies, are spending approximately $14,900 per pupil per year, whereas private schools in central Ohio are spending only $7,700 per year per pupil," he said.

He also says people cannot afford a property tax hike of more than 20 percent.

"That's a huge amount of money."

Meanwhile, Issue 51 would create an independent auditor for the district. It's something critics of the schools have called for after an attendance data scandal that continues to be investigated by Auditor of State Dave Yost. That new position would be paid for using funds under Issue 50.

Coleman believes improving schools can help break the cycle of poverty and crime in the city, but Young says the district needs to live within its means.

So how much is the levy really going to cost taxpayers? The Franklin County Auditor's office has launched a tool on their website that allows you to find out.

"They'll know the cost of the levy to them directly and we also give them an overview of what the levy is all about," said Auditor Clarence Mingo. "It's the power of information made ready and available to every voter in the county."

Mingo says the intent is not to sway voters one way or the other on the levy, but rather make sure they can make an informed vote on the issue. This isn't the first time his office has provided this type of information about tax levies.

"Normally people say 'per $100,000 this is how much the levy will cost you.' That's a real generic formula. We want them to know specifically," he said.

Once you log into the website do a search for your property in the real estate section. On the left side of the page you should see a link to levy information. Click that and you'll get a break down for each issue and how much it will cost per month and per year.

 

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