Sheffield schools bill state for ‘phantom’ funds
Sheffield schools say state shorts it cash
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Plain Dealer Reporter
Sheffield Lake- In an attempt to convince state officials that school funding methods aren’t working, the Sheffield-Sheffield Lake school board is billing Ohio’s governor for money the district figures it was shorted by the state’s funding formula.
Calling the district’s approach “unique,” a state funding expert said that other districts might follow Sheffield’s lead, especially if education issues are defeated in November.
“Five other districts have sent bills to the state, but Sheffield is the first district to challenge state policy,” said Bill Phillis, executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding in Columbus.
The bill was for $1.6 million – the amount Sheffield figures it was shorted for the last four years.
Sheffield schools Treasurer David Chambers said the district is challenging what some see as a flaw in the formula that deals with so-called phantom revenue.
The state believes that each district should collect 23 mills from taxpayers and deducts that much from the district’s state aid.
But many districts, including Sheffield-Sheffield Lake, can collect only 20 mills locally. Voters have approved more, but the millage is automatically reduced by law to make up for growth in the tax base.
The difference between the state’s calculation and the actual amount taxed is called “phantom revenue.” Some lawmakers in Columbus have proposed eliminating it from the system.
Voters in the school district have rejected the last six attempts to pass a tax.
If residents don’t approve a five-year, 8.95-mill emergency operating levy in November and a five-year, 7.81-mill renewal in next May’s election, the district could be placed in state receivership before the end of fiscal year 2006.
More bad news arrived Oct. 12 from the state auditor’s office, informing officials that the district’s performance audit would not be completed before the November election.
“It’s disappointing,” said Chambers, who was counting on the audit to convince voters “sitting on the fence” that the district is really hurting financially.
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