Proposed funding baffles some districts

Projected numbers are in, and several local school districts are not seeing an increase in funds from Gov. John Kasich’s funding plan.

New figures released by Kasich’s administration this week show 60 percent of school districts, including a number of poorer districts, would get no additional funding despite the governor’s pledge they would get more aid and wealthy districts would get less.

Several local school leaders went to Columbus to witness Kasich’s proposed plan.

“We met in Columbus and were pretty optimistic,” Old Fort Superintendent Jude Meyers said.

Old Fort Local School District will see a zero-percent change in proposed funding for 2014-15, with funding staying at $1,528,127.

“We expected to see some increase in funding, but obviously what the preliminary results in the data show, we were surprised,” Meyers said.

The good news, Meyers said, is there is not a decrease in funding.

“Every year, we hold our breath to see what the budget will look like,” Meyers said. “The message that we received in Columbus was the opposite. It sort of has had a Robin Hood affect to where the wealthier keep getting wealthier and the poorer districts are struggling.”

Districts across the county are discovering the same message.

Bettsville Local School District Superintendent Gregg Pettit said he doesn’t believe the formulas are being consistent with all the districts.

Bettsville, too, is at a zero-percent increase with funds for the next two years at $1,069,785.

“We are questioning what is driving the figures. There is such a high poverty rate here in our district that the state aid should compensate for it,” Pettit said.

Pettit remains optimistic.

“Bettsville has a lot to offer, the student-to-teacher ratio is 9-1, and we have top academic programs,” he said.

Pettit is looking into having a fee-free school, which would be the first time a school in Ohio does not charge school fees.

“We are looking into attracting families to the area and to increase our open enrollment to get kids back we have lost. Our future is very positive.” Pettit said.

Bettsville will have a five-year, 1-percent income tax renewal on the May 7 ballot.

“We remain positive and optimistic that the community will come and work together to accomplish something that we really need,” Pettit said. “I am confident that the community will come through for us.”

Reports say of the 97 districts classified by the state as rural and high poverty, 82 percent would get no additional state aid in 2014, and 76 percent would get zero increase over the next two years. Eight of those districts would get increases averaging at least 5 percent per year.

Meanwhile, of the 153 districts classified as urban/suburban with high or very high median income, 44 percent get no additional funding for two years, while another 44 percent get annual increases that average at least 5 percent.

Many district leaders remain confused by the results.

“The budget does us no good whatsoever,” Lakota Local School District Superintendent David Danhoff said. “We have a zero-percent increase with zero dollars. It is a little bit baffling and unfortunately we are left out in the cold.”

The proposed funding for Lakota is $4,587,888 over the two years.

Other districts across the state are seeing 10- to 30-percent increases.

Tiffin and Fostoria city school districts are to see an increase of about 16 percent in proposed funding for 2014 and a 3-4 percent increase for 2015.

“We are cautiously optimistic for any support we have received from the state because of the significant reductions in our budget; however, we do not have enough details coming up with any amount of money and there is still a long way to go to see how it will impact the district,” Tiffin Superintendent Donald Coletta said.

Tiffin City Schools has made about $3.7 million in reductions over the past few years and cut 73 positions and any additional money would help move the district forward, Coletta said.

There are two components to school funding, Ken Ratliff, superintendent for Mohawk Local Schools, said. One is funding to be equitable for all schools and two, to be adequate.

“The problem with the funding formula coming out of the spreadsheet is that we are not receiving enough money to do business,” Ratliff said.

There are class sizes that Ratliff said he would like to reduce and the district has made several significant cuts.

Voters rejected an additional five-year, 1.5-mill levy for the Mohawk Local School District in November.

“For the future, we at least are going to hold out for some hope for reconsideration. We are going to survive and keep doing what we have been doing to balance the budget,” Ratliff said.

Some school leaders are grateful that their state aid wasn’t cut.

“Everything still has to be approved and we are just waiting to see how it all shakes out,” Nichole Jiran, superintendent for Hopewell-Loudon said. “We are glad that we are not losing money. It would be fantastic to gain money, but we will continue to be frugal with spending and are currently looking for ways to be more efficient.”