Education funding a key issue in local race for Ohio rep.

Adam Milasincic

In the race for 68th District state representative, both candidates have built their campaigns around a common theme: incumbent Kathleen Chandler’s three decades in public office.

Chandler, a Kent Democrat, is completing her second two-year term in Columbus. Previously, she had served as a Kent mayor, councilwoman and Portage County Commissioner. Chandler, 74, said this background positions her as an effective and informed decision maker.

“My experience in government in all these years serves me well in doing this job,” she said. “I believe I’ve been effective, and I believe I give good responses to citizens.”

Bill Davis, a Republican businessman from Ravenna, argues that Chandler has been in office long enough. As a first-time candidate, the 56-year-old owner of DS Transport said his election would mean a new, more business-like approach to issues in the capital.

“(Chandler) has proposed nine bills in four years,” Davis said. “Not one has made it out of committee. She has accomplished zero. In my world, four years of getting nothing done would lead you to a termination notice.”

That assessment is technically true, Chandler said, but not for her lack of attempt.

“Obviously (Davis) doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” she said. “The real question that maybe the public should be asking is why, when Republicans have had total control in Columbus for the last decade, have we still not solved the school funding issue and have the high property tax we do?”

Beyond the candidates’ qualifications, education and tax issues have emerged as the major flashpoints in the race.

Davis, who has billed himself in advertisements as “your property tax watchdog,” supports elimination of the property taxes used to pay for schools. He said the lost revenue could be recovered through a combination of new state and local sales taxes to more evenly distribute the burden of education funding.

“Why should an individual pay four decades of property taxes, retire and then lose their home because they can’t afford their taxes?” Davis said. “Under the system right now, the state has maxed out. Sixty-nine percent of every tax dollar homeowners pay goes to schools.”

Chandler said Davis’s proposal goes too far and instead proposes an increase in state funding for basic education so that school districts aren’t forced to rely on levies.

“I think there should be a certain basic amount of property taxes that goes to schools because that’s a very stable tax,” she said. “If you use only sales or income taxes, when the economy rises or falls then the school suffers. But property taxes are too high.”

Chandler said additional funding for schools should be allocated from the state’s new commercial activity tax, which draws from business bottom lines. Davis opposes the tax and said its creation in 2005 was a major motivation for his candidacy.

Both candidates agreed that more state dollars should flow to public universities but diverged slightly on how they should be distributed.

Both candidates tout their independence from party leaders on a variety of issues but said this year’s race amounts to a basic philosophical difference: How much is too much when it comes to government spending?

Davis said he’s running for office because of “taxes, plain ordinary taxes.” He wants to cut them at most levels.

Chandler said her top priority is education and its link to economic development — a connection that sometimes requires substantial state investment.

Contact public affairs reporter Adam Milasincic at [email protected].


Name: Kathleen Chandler

Party: Democrat

Age: 74

Residence: Kent

Political experience: Kent City Council (1980-1988); Kent Mayor (1990-1997); Portage County Commissioner (1997-2003); State Representative (2003-present).

Quote: “The real issue behind the tax structure in government is that citizens are willing to pay for services that they need or want. But they need to know their money is being effectively and efficiently spent and that there’s not waste.”

Name: Bill Davis

Party: Republican

Age: 56

Residence: Ravenna

Political Experience: None.

Quote: “Why should an individual pay four decades of property taxes, retire and then lose their home because they can’t afford their taxes? Under the system right now, the state has maxed out.”