School sports returns to Grove City, Ohio, despite its world-famous skinflints
You here all this talk about “green shoots” in the desolate landscape that is our economy. So perhaps the greenest shoots are sprouting in Grove City, Ohio, America’s poster child for the desolate landscape that is the school sports economy.
Voters in the South-Western City Schools district, Ohio’s sixth-largest, on Nov. 3 passed — barely — a tax levy that the system said was necessary to keep extracurricular activities, including sports. Barely, as in 50.53 percent for to 49.47 percent against. But that was better than the 50.8-49.2 loss suffered Aug. 4, and previous votes in the 56-44 range. The turnout was 38,000 votes on Nov. 3 — about 6,000 more than for the Aug. 4 tax referendum.
After that Aug. 4 vote, the school board got South-Western, located in southwestern portion of the city of Columbus and nearby suburbs, unwanted national attention by canceling all extracurricular activites. The day after the Nov. 3 election, the school board, looking at $18 million they didn’t have previously, unanimously approved the contracts for 43 basketball, wrestling, swimming and gymnastics coaching positions, the day after the election, according to ThisWeek Community Newspapers in Columbus. The Ohio State High School Athletic Association is even waiving rules to allow athletes who transferred to other schools to come back without penalty. (The OSHAA has done this for other school districts that have dropped, then reinstated sports.)
I think it’s safe to say that after articles in USA Today, Sports Illustrated and other national press depicting the anti-tax voters of South-Western as the Grinch Who Stole Sports and the despondent athletes as Cindy Lou-Whos who weren’t going to see the good side of having no roast beast, a lot of voters were shamed into approving the levy, which adds $227 a year for every $100,000 of assessed property value. (The amount of the levy requested was also slightly smaller than August’s request.)
Also, there probably were voters who, with the housing market bad enough, did not want to someday not be able to sell their house because South-Western had gotten a reputation as a place that hates children and hates schools.
My late father was as anti-tax as they come, but he (often grudingly) voted for every tax levy that was offered for schools, in part because his own children would benefit, but mainly because he knew that his property values were tied to the value of the school system. He might not have liked paying more taxes, but in his cost-benefit analysis he figured that was less than the property value hit he would take for a “no” vote.
It’s not a total happy ending for South-Western’s involved children. The school reinstated sports, but it also installed a pay-to-play system. According to ThisWeek, “[h]igh school athletics will cost $150 per participant per sport. Marching band will cost $100. Middle school athletics will cost $75 and clubs $20.”