Funding Ohio County Schools

Easy come — not so easy go. That may be how Ohio County Board of Education members took news they received last week, that the school district is about to lose $1.7 million a year in revenue.

A few years ago, the assessed valuation of property in the county went up. That was due largely to the natural gas drilling boom. The change added to the school system’s revenue base.

Board members reacted by reducing their property tax levy rate, taking it down to 94.5 percent of the maximum they were permitted by law to collect. That saved taxpayers a few dollars.

But last week, board members were told the assessed valuation of taxable property has gone down. That will slash $1.7 million a year in revenue if the tax rate is left at 94.5 percent.

Even if they boost the rate to 100 percent, the school system’s budget will suffer a loss of about $700,00 next year, board members were told.

To their credit, board members refrained from taking immediate action to set the levy rate at 100 percent. Instead, they voted to place it at 95.5 percent — where it was before the drilling boom. Board members Zach Abraham, Tim Birch and Sarah Koegler voted in favor of that, while Shane Mallett voted against. Member Christine Carder was not present.

A variety of unknowns are obstacles to making any decision on the budget. One is how much state funding Ohio County schools will receive next year.

School officials should attack the problem first by finding ways to reduce spending. Times are tough for many Ohio County taxpayers, after all.

But taxpayers also put a high priority on educating our children and grandchildren. Few would argue against slightly higher taxes to avoid substantive, otherwise unavoidable cuts in school quality.

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