Economist Looks For Trends In Voters' Approval of Ohio Bond Issues, School Levies

Nov 9, 2017

Columbus-based economist Howard Fleeter says there are some concerns in the trends he's seeing based on this week's election results.
Credit KAREN KASLER

Voters approved three out of four school levies on the ballot during Tuesday’s general election. But an Ohio economist who studies school funding says some concerning trends are emerging from those results.

Columbus-based economist Howard Fleeter says by his count, 76 percent of the operating levies on the ballot this week were approved by voters. Fleeter says that’s because a majority of them were renewals -- when a district asks voters to re-approve an old levy for the same amount of money. Renewals are approved more than 90 percent of the time, Fleeter says, but it means there’s no new income for schools.

“So if you’re a school district that needs more money, you got about a 1 in 4 chance of getting more money and a lot of districts seem to be not even trying lately.”

They’re not trying, Fleeter says, because new taxes are not popular with Ohio voters. On Tuesday, more than 75 percent of new operating levies failed.

Ohio voters also approved 64 percent of the new bond levies on the ballot Tuesday, sticking to historical voting trends.

Bond levies are used for capital improvements in a school district, such as the construction of a new building or school renovations. That’s why Fleeter says they have a high passage rate.

“People can see when a building in their district needs to be repaired, or upgraded, or expanded, or you just need a new one. I think that those things, it’s more clear and maybe easier to make the case.”

Fleeter says new operating levies have a much lower approval rating. One in four were approved Tuesday.