COVENTRY TWP. Coventry Local Schools are considered and funded as a wealthy district, according to the state of Ohio funding formula.
Lee Ann Weisenmiller, a former treasurer for the district for the last 10 of her 34 years of employment, wants to see athat changed because she is convinced the current formula doesn’t reflect Coventry Schools accurately. Recently, she and Coventry Schools Superintendent Lisa Blough met with State Representative Anthony DeVitis about exploring the issue.
Weisenmiller presented DeVitis with about 70 letters from community members and school officials asking for him to look into the funding from the state for Coventry. She also presented him with a binder of reports, which go into extensive detail highlighting Coventry Schools and what it all consists of.
"When I started this, after gathering all of the information, I wasn’t sure how to put this together," Weisenmiller said. "But somebody had to step up and try."
She said she got involved because she has the knowledge, and school finances were her life for 34 years. She also said she is doing this project on her own and not with any help from the district.
In 2006, when Weisenmiller was treasurer, she prepared a report about the challenges the district faced in regards to school funding. She and superintendent at the time, Rusty Chaboudy, took that report directly to the Ohio Department of Education.
The report didn’t raise any eyes, however, as 12 years later she again collected more indepth data and prepared another, more detailed, report. This time, she went directly to a legislator.
"While the state is doing nothing wrong, it is applying a uniform funding method to a district that is unique and plagued with diversity beyond our control," Weisenmiller said. "Our situation is unique due to the state waters located in our district that cause our property values to be seriously inflated."
In fiscal year 2002, Coventry’s state aid was 38.08 percent, which then dropped to 25.11 percent by 2006. During that same time period, Green Local Schools, Manchester Local Schools and Springfield Local Schools each received a higher percentage of state aid.
Coventry Schools currently receives 31 percent of its funding in state aid, which is lower than Green at 37 percent, Manchester at 44 percent and Barberton at 73 percent.
The school district’s footprint increased from the 2000 census compared to 2010 census, as the district went from 8.2 square miles in 2000 to 11.6 square miles on the most recent census. The increase comes following the construction of Coventry Crossings, an allotment which is located within the city of Akron, but is within the Coventry Local School District. In the 2006 report, 19.49 percent of the 8.2 square miles of the district was water.
Weisenmiller said it is important to note that Coventry Township and Coventry Local Schools do not have the same footprint. A portion of Coventry Schools stretches into New Franklin and Akron.
The latest census states the per capita income for the district is $29,395, median household income is $54,975 and the percentage of residents living below the poverty line is 8.7 percent. Ohio, in general, has an average per capita income of $27,800, median household income of $50,764 and 14.6 percent living in poverty.
In 2016, the assessed valuation for the district was $292,169,810, which ranks Coventry number 101 in wealth of 610 districts in the state. Based on the state calculation. Of the 17 public school districts in Summit County, Coventry ranks sixth based on wealth measure and is considered more affluent than districts such as Green, Manchester, Stow-Munroe Falls, Twinsburg, Cuyahoga Falls and Tallmadge. Revere is considered the most-wealthy in the county and ranks 8th in the state. Barberton is considered the least wealthy in county and ranks 565th in the state.
Also, according to numbers released by the Ohio Department of Education for the 2017-18 school year shows that 42.6 percent of Coventry Local students are eligible to receive free lunch, based on income. That is the nearly percent as Cuyahoga Falls (42.3 percent), but is significantly higher than Twinsburg (16.5 percent), Green (17.5 percent), Tallmadge (20.7 percent), Manchester (21.8 percent) and Stow-Munroe Falls (22.8 percent).
These numbers contradict a wealthy district, Weisenmiller said. The census also states there are 5,770 households within the Coventry Local School District with a population of 13,135.
Makeup of the district
Weisenmiller has gone through and calculated what makes up the district as far as businesses and how many residential properties there are. Plus, she has determined the value of each based on county appraisals.
Based on the overview of the district, there are 38 parcels that are agricultural or for farming, 485 commercial parcels, 7,465 residential parcels and 203 exempt parcels. The agricultural account for about $6 million in value, commercial about $105 million, residential about $726 million and exempt about $83 million. This brings the total to about $838 million in taxable property for the school district.
The appraisals also show there are 1,802 vacant residential parcels, which range in value between zero and $171,300. The majority of these parcels are unbuildable or are adjacent to residences. When it comes to residential, 7,190 parcels range between zero and $299,999 (96 percent) and just 275 (4 percent) range from $300,000 and $1.73 million. Of those, 17 are above $700,000.
Weisenmiller hopes DeVitis and his staff will take some time and consider whatever it takes to get this issue on the table for review.
She also notes that the school district footprint has a lot of land that cannot be built on; such as, 230 acres that make up Firestone Golf Course, 130 acres at Interval Brotherhood Home and Turkeyfoot Golf Course. Residential building on these acres is impossible, along with the 1,000 acres of water. More residential homes would add to the district’s residential population for the school funding formula.
Plus, waterfront homes have a higher property value. In the district, 746 properties - or 13.9 percent - in the district are located on the water.
Community member Kevin Powell, like Weisenmiller, is dedicated to the issue.
"It is sad that one of our biggest assets (the lakes) is hurting our schools with inflated values on homes," Powell said.
One of the solutions proposed by Weisenmiller is requesting a simulation from the Ohio Department of Education to determine if the district would benefit from using median numbers for property values and federal gross income compared to averages. Another option is introducing a bill providing some kind of relief for the district by allowing a reduction in the total property value to accommodate property value inflation of the water.
DeVitis is expected to present the issue in an upcoming meeting, according to Weisenmiller, who stresses that Coventry is not a wealthy district.
"What it says on paper is nowhere even close to representing our reality," Weisenmiller said.