MOUNT VERNON — School district income taxes and school property tax levies pay for things such as teachers’ salaries, utilities and educational supplies, but there are also some “hidden” costs to doing business as an educational entity.
Collection fees are an example. Districts which have a school district income tax to help pay operating expenses, such as Centerburg and Danville, do not receive the full amount of the tax collected on their behalf. The Ohio Department of Taxation retains 1.5 percent of the total collected as an administration fee.
Property tax collection fees are based on a graduated scale, depending on the district’s total property valuation; part of the collection fee goes to the county auditor’s general fund, part to the county treasurer’s office. The auditor gets 2.5 percent of the tax collected on the first $100,000 of valuation and the treasurer gets 2.99 percent.
For the next $2 million, the auditor receives 0.83 percent and the treasurer 0.99 percent. After $4.1 million, the auditor’s take is 0.166 percent and the treasurer’s equals 0.199 percent.
The auditor’s office also gets what is called a real estate fee. That is withheld from the schools on a sliding scale, too, ranging from 4 percent for the first $500,000 of valuation to 0.6 percent of amounts over $160 million.
The county can also charge schools part of the fee for publishing tax delinquency lists and for a portion of election fees whenever the district has a levy on the ballot, or when school board members are being chosen. That fee varies depending on whether it is a general or special election, for example, and according to how many entities have issues on that particular ballot. School district money is not used to solicit public support for school levies.
School districts also have to pay to publish required legal notices. For example, announcements that financial statements are ready for public review, and for things such as advertising for bids for buses and construction projects.
Insurance premiums are a major outlay for school districts. Medical insurance for employees is a considerable expense, and the schools also have to pay into workers’ compensation. Liability, property and fleet insurance are part a district’s insurance expenditures as well.
Another annual bite to a school district’s budget is a per-pupil fee to the Knox County Educational Service Center. That fee helps pay for such things as professional development training, countywide consulting and supervisory services, programs for talented and gifted students, special education staff, special education classrooms, preschool services, bus driver certification procedures, and support services such as speech therapists and occupational therapists.
The costs for data processing, required recordkeeping and the preparation of required financial statements continue to increase for schools. For instance, most districts in the area pay up to $4,000 to the Local Government Services Division of the Auditor of State’s office for consulting services to prepare complex general-purpose financial statements each year. Then the districts have to pay a fee for the state auditor to review those statements. Last year, Danville’s combined preparation and auditing fees came to a little under $20,000.
Making sure students are safe and secure also costs money. FBI and BCII background checks for school employees and volunteers, with costs sometimes shared by the individual, come to $60 for each person. Elevator inspections, fire prevention surveys, boiler examinations and other inspections are paid for by the schools. Checks by the health department, except for food service audits, do not cost the schools anything, but they do have to pay to correct any deficiencies discovered by those checks. If major construction is involved, the schools must pay for building permits and hook-up fees.
There are a variety of other incidental expenses. Among those are the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District tax, costs associated with mandated testing, including the costs of the tests themselves and scoring of the tests, office supplies, copy machines, telephones, postage, piano tuning, and tires and tubes for buses.
Information for this article was provided by Danville Treasurer Mary Payne, Fredericktown Treasurer Pat Miller, KCESC Treasurer Heather Darnold, Mount Vernon Treasurer Barb Donohue and Knox County Auditor Jonette Curry.