Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Middle Bass property owners unpleasantly surprised by real estate tax bills

(The following article has been reprinted from the February, 2010 Put-in-Bay Gazette, and has been reprinted with permission. Please leave your comments at the end.)

Taxpayers on Middle Bass Island opened their tax bills in January and found something they weren't expecting ..... a hefty increase.

The increase came because the Middle Bass School Board decided to reinstate three separate levies totaling 15.2 mils voted on in 1981 , but which haven't been collected in many years.

Originally, these continuing levies were approved by voters for the board's operating expenses such as paying tuition for Middle Bass students attending Put-in-Bay School, their daily transportation and other expenses. The board voted later to put a hold on collecting the levies when they found they didn't need the money.

In recent years, the board realized it was running in the red. To solve the problem, they decided to reinstate the levies so they could become solvent. They contacted the Ottawa County Auditor who put the levies back on the tax duplicate for 2009 taxes.

This extreme increase in taxes even caught the Middle Bass School Board off guard. They were expecting to collect much less money. When this was discovered, it was too late for the auditor to adjust the tax bills. The board is now working to find a way to refund any overpayment, hopefully about half, plus determine exactly how much of the 15.2 mils is actually needed to meet their expenditures.

Some taxpayers initially thought they were paying back taxes from past years, but this is not the case. The increase, however, is what taxpayers could have been paying all along, had the board never taken the levies off.

Currently, there are five Middle Bass students attending school at Put-in-Bay. Members of the Middle Bass School Board are President Art Wolf, Vice-President Robin Glauser, Katie Schneider, John Glauser and Eddie Sheller. John Schneider is the treasurer.


  1. Email from Jim Benedict:

    I wish more people were informed about how Ohio provides for school financing. Beyond state foundation money (currently around $5700-5900 per pupil) and a very low "inside millage" tax that is shared with the local government, all school taxes require a vote of the people. Unlike a number of other states, neither the school board nor the local or state government can set the taxes. Most schools have many levies, passed in different years The school board is required by law to provide an education for every legal resident, and if there is not enough money available, to submit a new levy for voter approval. If they have the money, they cannot refuse to spend it.

    The big problem is House Bill 920 (google Ohio HB 920 and you will get pages of hits). It was passed in 1976 to protect property owners from inflation. When a new levy is passed, the dollar amount is frozen at the amount that is collected the first year the tax is on the books. In this case, the Middle Bass school board has NOT gotten more money as our properties have gone up in value since 1976. Instead, each time property values go up, the millage is reduced to collect the same number of dollars as before. In some cases, like Middle Bass, property values have really gone high since 1976, thus is some cases a few of the tax levies are not collected at all. If the number of students grew, necessitating more money, then the school board was obligated by law to reinstate the unused millage. If there is still not enough money, then they have to put a levy on the ballot.

    The real tax crisis on Middle Bass is not a new student. It is something else. Your email mentioned some 1981 levy. In 1981 the following properties paid tax:
    All of the Lonz property
    The Roesch property that the state bought
    All the property the PIB Port authority acquired for the new airport
    Hanck's Pond
    Peterson Woods
    Perhaps also that part of Burgundy Bay that is now an airport approach

    When the tax was reinstituted this year, none of these could be taxed, so it was up to the rest of us to make up the difference. This is the biggest factor in the huge tax increase, not one additional student.
    That is a lot of property and thus a lot tax dollars that isn't there on the tax duplicate. This is not unique to Middle Bass. Research what has happened in Geneva, Ohio with the new and large state park there. Significant burdens on the local police, fire, and infrastructure, as well as huge losses of property tax for the local school system, and the state has shrugged it all off. Geneva's problem, and the state doesn't care. The state has proven to be a very poor neighbor and local partner everyplace it has gone in Ohio. Mike knows that 10 years ago I was very leery of the state buying Lonz's. Now our chickens are coming home to roost.

    Some other comments:

    I really question the $70,000 for transportation. With 180 school days in the year, that's $388.88 a day. I know that throughout the fall and the spring, they use the school boat. They could fly Dairy Air round trip each day for that. Seriously, that's about $97 for each of the current 4 students. What is the source of this figure?

    I don't question the $33,000 for tuition, since the posted amount for 2007 was about $28,500, and three years have gone by. However, almost $6000 is covered by state foundation money. Additionally, I know that the state and the federal government used to provide some extra monies for the island school districts because of their unique situation. Has this ended?

  2. Why is it our responsiblity to educate these children. What is the total cost per child?

  3. The tuition is the problem. Put In Bay School district is robbing the taxpayers of Middle Bass. I am pretty certain that PIB does not allow open enrollment in which they would simply collect the states dollars per pupil allotted ($5500.00??) They obviously see MBI as the goose that laid the golden egg. So with no open enrollment, they can charge what ever the heck they want to defray their costs for their kids.

    I would be curious to see what attending Port Clinton would cost per pupil. Logistically for the families in case of bad weather would be a nightmare. Again PIB has our school board by the you no whats.

    That would be a hard decision as a parent though to be flying my kids to school in all that weather.

  4. The property taxes have certainly upset a lot of people. From what I understand, a new girl started school at Put in Bay. They built a new house straight down Lonz Rd to the lake. Their name is Champe I believe. I also understand that it costs taxpayers $33,000 per child to send them to Put in Bay school, plus $70,000 for transport, when actually they could go to Port Clinton schools for a fraction of that money. God help us with taxes if 20 other children turn up to live on the island. It is nonsense that the parents can demand such an expensive schooling for them. But the school board consists of Johnny Schneider, who has 2 children, Art Wolfe, who has 1 and the Glausers who have 1 and Eddie Sheller. Therefore, with the arrival of the Champe girl, the school board was running out of money and decided to reinstate three separate levies totalling 15.2 mils, voted on in 1981 but which have not been collected in many years. The board had put a hold on collecting the levies when they found they did not need the money years ago!! Now we believe the auditor is saying that we should all pay that amount then get a refund later, but my husband is thinking of only paying what we paid last year until the whole thing is sorted out or we hear otherwise.


  5. It is everyone's responsibility to educate our children. That's what makes this country great! While no one is happy with the hefty tax increase, it is not helpful to point fingers of blame. How do you think the new student must feel, when she is being blamed. (by the way, the name is not Champe) It is not her fault. Actually the school board could have been collecting the taxes all along. Thank goodness they have not!! We actually have enjoyed very low property taxes on MBI. We've had contact with Johnny and I truly believe that he and the rest of the school board did not mean for this to happen. And, they are working on a solution. Remember all 5 members of the school board had their taxes increased also! I think our island community will be a better place if we work together to solve the problem. The way I understand it, the $33,000 per student includes the transportation, it is not $33,000 plus $70,000. MBI school board pays the grand sum to PIB School Board and then PIB pays the bills. Just to be clear, we were shocked and distraught when we received our tax bills (for 3 MBI properties), but when we calmed down and listened to the explanation and realized that no one person is to blame, (the school board actually tried to collect less, but the county auditor wouldn't let them) and that the problem is being worked on, we figured everything is being done that can be done. And then we paid our taxes. No new big screen TV for us!! haha

    Thank you, Ann Huber

  6. AMAZING..

    Are you calling out Johnny, and Art for having children and being on the school board.. that's no different that down HOME here. I think that Schnieders, and Wolfe's have done enough GOOD for the people of Middle Bass for generations that us LAND owners can PAY to help educate their kids.. and OURS.. Now the huge tax increase and how it get handled is the REAL issue. I trust Art and Johnny to make quality decisions and to treat everybody's $$$ like it's their own..

    Long time Middle Bass Summer Resident

  7. The question was asked "Why is it our responsiblity to educate these children?" The Ohio Constitution mandates a "thorough and efficient" system of public education. The State of Ohio created the current system of local school districts, funded by property taxes on real property within the district, administered by a locally elected school board, and accountable to the State. Everyone who owns real property on Middle Bass is legally responsible for paying to educate "these children". It is not optional.

    Twice the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that a reliance on property taxes for school funding is unconstitutional. Two governors (one Rep. and one Dem.), a Republican House of Rep. and Democratic House of Rep. have done nothing to reform the system of school funding. All they did was to throw a little more money at the old system. And what is worse, the Ohio Supreme Court has sat there with its mouth closed and done nothing while it's rulings have been ignored. Too politically dangereous for any of them to do anything. Maybe if we had a responsible and competent state government we could fix this, but we don't.

    By the way, I understand that in Vermont a property owner gets to vote on all property tax issues (but not other issues) regardless of where they live. Ohio - The Home of Taxation Without Representation!

  8. amazing.
    so now were allowed to just decide the amount of tax we want to pay for the year--or at least your husband is! I'm seriously sitting here laughing at the foolishness of that statement.Thank you for the laugh.

  9. Exactly!
    Wish everyone understood this ten years ago when the state was wanting to gobble up the south end of middle bass(LONZ Properties). When a property just sits idle and does nothing, it is never good for an economy--or the people of the community..Think of it this way...Back in 2000,how much electricity do you suppose was consumed by the Winery,the 2 dorms,and the mansion? ALOT!!! Now how about 2001- 2009? BARELY ANY!!! Not good for the economy or a union Electrical worker! It is not benficial to Middle Bass--or the students of Middle Bass-- for the state to let the LONZ properties fall into ruin.There once was a thriving business paying lots of income tax and land taxes--just 10 short years ago--.Now there's simply a state owned property,that the state is letting the buildings fall down due to NO maintenance.The property owners of Middle Bass will have to pick up the slack. The ole state park project isn't quite pannin' out like the state said.

  10. I think you would be surprised at how little in property taxes the Lonz property actually paid compared to the overall acreage, due to it all being all in agriculture.

    As Jim B. said, the State has the reputation (comes by it naturally) of not being a good neighbor. In the end they don't care what the local citizens want or require. How true, look at how they have priced most on the island out of the seasonal dockage in their new marina. They do not care.

    To keep the discussion on track I think it is important to go back to the reasons why the costs are so significant for the students on MBI to attend PIB schools. It would be great for one of the school board members or someone who can get the actual numbers to post them here.

    I think when the dust settles, you will see the majority of the costs are tied directly to the PIB's school board decision to charge tution instead of having an open enrollment policy striclty for MBI and NBI students. If they cannot have an open enrollment policy due to ORC, then a simple Superintendant's agreement would allow for the same to occur. They would take the alloted States money per pupil like any other district in Ohio that has open enrollment and that would be that.

    What are the chances though that the PIB school board would allow all that money they currently rake in to go by the wayside? I think the MBI school board may have a little more leverage in all this than they realize. Just look at the dollars their few students bring to the general fund of PIB?

    I also do not think that 28,000 -30,000 per student includes transportation costs. I wonder if the transportation goes through a formal bidding process annually since the MBI School is a public school?

  11. So what dose it cost per child...total? I'm estimating $45,000. This is outragious. Send them to the main land. It is not my responsibility to pay outragious fees per child because one wants to live on an island. This is foolish. Many localites have cut bussing in order to save money, did the school board consider this option?

  12. First, in 2007 PIB spent 28,000+ on its own students. That figure was not tutition for out of district students. The amount is so high because of the cost of having a school on the islands. Second, Open enrollment is normally used for a district that will accept out of district students provided they pay the posted tuition. In my over 30 years in education, I can't name one school that accepted out of district students and waived the tuition. In this case, it would amount to PIB subsidizing the MBI students to the tune of more than $22,000 or so each. By the way, my figures for 2007 came from the State Department of Educations posted figures, and Kelleys Island was No. 1, spending more than $48,000 on each of their own students. Love island schools.

  13. I think the task at hand is to get involved and be attentive to what our elected school board members are doing. I also agree that the costs associated are outrageous, and the option of mainland school needs to be explored. The exhuberant spending that PIB schools exhibit for traveling to the mainland, etc all comes into play. Just a month ago, there was a field trip to the mainland, that was unable to return due to a PREDICTED snow storm. So what happened? All the students were put up in a hotel! (LOL). The school board members need to understand they are running a business, and this is not a game. Also, I don't think the previous comment about how much people have done for the island constitutes exemption from eing held to be responsible for the tasks at hand! Generations, as said, have made fortunes from their efforts, as they are entitled, however, that does not mean they can slide through their decisions without responsibility. Also, I understand that the new revised amount to actually be retained is MORE than needed, and being earmarked for a rebuilding of reserves! This I find is pure crap. I can't think of a school district that has reserves these days!

  14. The district and surrounding districts in which I work all have open enrollment policies that allow for students to apply and if space permitting, along with a few other requirements are allowed to attend without further tuition than what state money follows the student. Go to the ODE websight and you will find the list of all districts in Ohio. Each district by law has to have a policy in place. There are many that do not allow it for various reasons.

    From looking at the list on the ODE websight, Port Clinton does allow students to open enroll.
    Furthermore if you go to the Port Clinton School Distrit websight you will see they accept students K-12.

    PIB,NBI,MBI and Kelly's all do not accept open enrollment students. I can see why based on the unique circumstances the districts are in.

    Even with incurred transportation costs, I would be curious to see what the overall cost savings would be in sending the students to mainland.

    There would be some significant logistical issues to be resolved as well if this were to occur that would also cost money.

    I am in agreement with one of the last posts, it is important that while most property owners on the island cannot vote for who manages the school funds or how the funds are allocated, we can be proactive particpants.

    I am confident the MBI School Board Members did not see this coming for a variety of reasons. If this money issue had not come to the forefront, it would be business and spending as usual.

    In the end the board will be saddled with the balancing their fiscal responsibilty to the taxpayers/community as well as the safety and education of the students on MBI.

  15. Good comments on Ohio HB-920, Many school districts in Ohio are suffering at the hands of 920. Regarding at the loss of property from the tax base, I looked into that a number of years ago and properties like Hanck's Pond were paying just $500 or so dollars a year in taxes. I don't think the other wetland or even the Lonz Agricultural zones were paying very much in taxes annually. What is really puzzling is the lack of enforcement of unpaid back taxes on lot's on the Island, in some cases 10's of Thousands of Dollars are owed and the County has done nothing about it. Also, we are all fortunate to have appraised values that are in most cases significantly less than the actual value of MBI properties. If the auditors office ever really looked at this everyone at MBI would be looking at a significantly larger tax bill.

  16. The post that there are many school districts that accept out of district students without tuition is correct, and my post was wrong. My apology. I guess it's what happens when you retire and just assume that things are same instead of checking the facts. This time I checked. Application is by the family for each individual child, with no guarantees of accpetance. It is not a district agreement to take all students who apply. Acceptance is for one year only. In factr, many districts that are open are highly selective. This is only the third year for Port Clinton, and circumstances can change. I liked the phrase "significant logistical issues." Daily transporation to Port Clinton would not seem to be possible. We would have to pay for a host family to provide room and board, probably on a weekly basis, and would still have a weekly transportation cost. However, the big thing is the personal, social, and psychological cost to the children and their families if their children are shipped offf to "boarding" school because the summer people don't want to pay taxes. The entire idea is wrong. It may save money, but it is wrong. The school board needed to do what is best for the students. It did not have any GOOD choices. I'm cheap and I hate paying taxes I can't vote on, but I think the school board did the best they could, and made the correct responsible decisions.

  17. I think in the past there have been students from PIB who did commute daily to Port Clinton (could be wrong on this one). This would require daily flights and the "host family/residence" in case of bad weather. I too am in agreement that it is not likely benefical to transport students to mainland on a daily basis via air for a variety of reasons. There would also be the issue of transportation to and from the airport.

    The only reason for my post previously was to indicate there are possible alternatives and in such situations all avenues should be explored for the decision making process as well as showing the ones with concerns regarding their tax money, that the current board does have a signifcant burden in which they must weigh many factors. In the end the students education and safety comes first in my book.

  18. How about reinstating the one-room schoolhouse on the island? It worked on North Bass so long as they had enough students. And we already have the teacher based on Middle Bass.

  19. Jim-
    The school board acted in haste period. Their act was cowardly at best. Ifthey had a clue they were going to need money, which they should have seen coming for the past couple of years, then why not propose an appropriate levy on the ballot. If fears of failure were looming, they had this back up plan that they could have jammed down our throats. By the way, how about the annual "Christmas Party" paid for by the School Board? Should this be a function that benefits most only the winter residents on the island at the taxpayers expense when the district is bust???? Please, their decisions were uneducated at best.

  20. OK.....So someone calls the School Board's acts cowardly??? I think if you are going to do that then you should at least in the same breath call them responsible and thoughtful for not collecting all the monies available to them in the past when their annual budget did not require it.

    All of that "back millage" was voted on and that is why it was availble to access.

    I don't like the situation anymore than anyone else, but to start accusing the board of acting cowardly does nothing to help the situation.

    Now it may be a good idea for the School Board to work with the auditor and take some steps to adjust the items currently on the books so this doesn't happen again.

  21. While the school board may not have been cowardly, they do need to be criticized for (a) making this mistake in the first place and (b) not speaking out publicly with any apology or at least explanation. If it weren't for this web site, there wouldn't be any info at all about what is really going on. And I'm still not sure what happened or what is going to happen. Come on school board. Please tell us something from your perspective.

  22. I am in agreement that a statement should come from the board since it has financially impacted every taxpayer on the island. Hopefully we will see one in the near future once they themselves have some answers and a way to rectify their errors.

    Unfortunately, as it has been stated previously, the majority of property owners do not have a say (at the voting booth) as to who is or is not on the school board, or on the various levies put on the ballot whether it be school related or not.

    Maybe with this current situation people who may not be able to officially vote will become proactive participants with regard to attending board meetings (hard to do during winter)and ask questions to where and how their money is being spent.

  23. Bud.
    It worked on North Bass? When we decided to close the school, we found it was a wash. It cost as much to fly the teacher in, pay her wages and maintain the building, as it cost to send our kids to the Bay. In our case it cost $18,000 for transportation and $33,000 for tuition. You can't touch a teacher for that.

  24. I don't know if Mike will post this, but I do have serious reservations about charges of anyone being "cowardly" or "uneducated" when when the accuser signs their post "Anonymous". I figure that if what I say is my honest opinion, then I'm going to stand up a be counted - including my mistakes. P.S. The board cannot anticipate who will or will not move to the island, or if they will have children. If "we" own property on MBI, these are "our" kids.

  25. Jim, so long as a comment is on topic and doesn't use foul language, I will publish it. I agree that name calling of any sort is not polite, but do want to document the opinions of the community.

  26. I really hate to say anything but I have been out of town so much this year I can't seem to get home for a school board meeting. So here it is has anyone ever thought of a "Deviated Curriculum" for the M.B.I. student's??? I think it's still an option in the state of Ohio,since we are paying more than twice what it would cost per student to send them to Western Reserve Academy! The last time I checked a year,or two ago the cost included room and board. I'm not suggesting the latter it's just for comparison of what you can get for that kind of money!!! One last thing I'm a little cornfused on, what extra student are some people referencing, I was only aware of one student replacing the one that left???

  27. I have never heard of the term, so I went to the ODE website and did a search for "deviated curriculum". It came back "no results". I also did a search for "differentiated curriculum" but only came up with programs for academically gifted students. Can someone enlighten me? What is it and how would it benefit MBI?

  28. If you want to live on a small island without a school, home school your children. Furthermore, why are tax payers paying for trips to the mainland. We need to investigate expenditures.

  29. Jim, these are not my kids nor my responsibility.

  30. Jim, do a search on "deviant curriculum". It just seems to mean a non-standard curriculum.

  31. While people may be up in arms with the error the school board has made, Jim is correct, our taxes fund the MBI school/students education. That is how it is done across Ohio right or wrong. The responsibility of the school board is to responsibly collect and spend the taxpayers money in the education of the local students. Presently it appears this is what is in question in both respects.

    At this point in the discussion not to put more fuel on this than is already present, but the bottom line is the part time residents who by numbers most likely pay the majority of the taxes on the island have no say and will never have any say in how the money is spent or allocated. In the end I would also bet that the full time residents don't really care one way or the other what "we" think about the situation. They will continue to spend our tax dollars as they have in the past.

    All that can be done from the non voting public end is to access the required documents and reports the school board is mandated to file with the state and auditor. If you feel they are out of line.... make a phone call.

  32. MBI effective millage rate is 9.4 for schools while PBI effective rate is 21 for schools. Consolidating into PIB would raise taxes by over 50% on Middle Bass. You would also lose control as PIB has many, many more voters!!! THINK before you put anything into ACTION.