Appraisal reductions, pending legislation top district concerns

by Judy Stringer

Dec. 12 board of education meeting

Hudson City School District Treasurer Phillip Butto said the district stands to lose roughly $300,000 a year if attorneys for Costco are successful in their bid to challenge the Boston Heights store’s 2020 reappraisal value.

According to Butto, Costco was unsuccessful in its first attempt to cut the property’s appraised value of $24.4 million in half, but has since appealed that decision by Summit County’s Board of Revision.

It also “submitted an appraisal further reducing that value from $12 million down to $10 million based on an appraisal that their attorney obtained,” the treasurer explained. “We, in turn, defended that property. Our attorney got an appraisal, and our appraisal was $24.1 million.”

Butto has been calling attention to the damaging impact of property value reductions, particularly those in the commercial sector, over the last few months. Over the last 2.5 fiscal years, the district has refunded $730,000 to commercial business taxpayers, he wrote in a follow-up email. Butto said HCSD could pay nearly half a million more in rebates during fiscal years 2022 and 2023 combined. 

“The commercial property value reductions, once approved by the Summit County Board of Revision, immediately result in a refund to businesses, directly affecting funding available for students,” he wrote. “Meanwhile, the reduction in business property taxes will shift the burden of tax to Hudson residents. The attorneys win, the business wins, but residential property owners and students lose.”

Board President Steve DiMauro noted that the local Costco “is not hurting” for business with the parking lot full and long lines at check out.

“I would just suggest for anyone that doesn’t like what they’re hearing, use your voice. Feel free to write letters to the editor or right to Costco,” he said.

Board member James Field added that the company’s annual report confirms “strong operating results.” In fiscal 2022, he said, sales increased 60% and income was up 17%.

Troubling state bills

As part of its legislative agenda, the board unanimously agreed to join an advocacy group called Vouchers Hurt Ohio. DiMauro highlighted House Bill 290, also called the Backpack Bill, as part of a troubling trend to divert state aid away from public schools.

He estimated that the district would forgo $1.5 million in revenue per year if HB 290 or something similar is passed. HB 290 creates a voucher system in which state dollars follow nearly all students who attend private, religious or charter schools, even those who live in high performing districts like Hudson.

“The way that vouchers sort of evolved or the way that they were positioned over the years was that charter school vouchers provided an alternative opportunity for students that were in ‘failing districts,’” DiMauro said. “… This is now at our doorstep.”

Board member Laura Jones added that the money following students to non-public schools is actually higher than the per-pupil payments Hudson gets in state aid. The district receives approximately $2,000 per student, yet each time one of them qualifies for a voucher, she said, about $7,000 is deducted from its total state aid.

“That’s essentially $5,000 worth of local taxpayer dollars going to the private school, which is not what taxpayers voted on when they voted to pass the tax levies,” she said.

“Two thirds of the people that attend a private school, never have any intention to attend a public school,” DiMauro said. “Nor do they, more often than not, expect anything from taxpayers, so this is, I believe, an overreach.”

During his comment period, Superintendent Dana Addis expressed his concern with Senate Bill 178. Addis said the bill threatened to reduce the power of the state board of education and was being “rushed through” by current senate leadership “who are not shy about their support of private education and privatizing education.”

Language from SB 178 ultimately was attached to House Bill 151 – a bill banning trans athletes from participating in youth sports based on their gender identity – and voted down on Dec. 15, according to an article in the Ohio Capital Journal.

In other meeting news, the board approved a number of course additions at the high school, including Modeling and Reasoning in Mathematics, AP Precalculus and Music Theory I and II.

It also gave the green light for turf replacement at Hudson Memorial Stadium at a cost of $587,000.

In addition, Operations Director Tom Barone provided the board with an update on bussing. He said an ongoing shortage of drivers and substitutes continues to challenge Hudson and other districts and has forced Hudson to cancel and/or combine routes – sometimes with little notice to parents.

Barone added that the bussing operator Petermann is currently working on fixes to an app that will better reflect when students on these combined routes are scheduled for pick up and drop off. ∞