Signature clears way for districts to combine

ALLIANCE Gov. John Kasich had a ceremonial signing of the bill that includes debt forgiveness for Bettsville Local Schools Wednesday during the 2014 Buckeye Girls State, moving the transfer of property to Old Fort Local Schools one step closer to reality.

Kasich signed amended House Bill 487 into action Monday.

The bill includes amendments to the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, teacher and administration evaluations, student testing, graduation requirements and district report cards.

The section of the bill applying to the districts of Bettsville and Old Fort is the “debt forgiveness for certain consolidating schools.”

According to the bill, it “provides that if the voluntary transfer of a school district results in the complete dissolution of that district and satisfies certain specified conditions, the acquiring school district will acquire the transferring district’s territory free and clear of any indebtedness owed by the transferring district to the state Solvency Assistance Fund.”

“As with any school situation, we are here to help them succeed in any way that we can,” Kasich said Wednesday.

The Bettsville district was placed in fiscal emergency by Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost Feb. 6. The district had projected a debt of $775,000 as of June 30.

Since being designated in fiscal emergency, the district has been overseen by a financial planning and supervision commission.

The Old Fort and Bettsville districts are moving forward with a transfer of district property. Both boards of education and the North Central Ohio Educational Service Center have passed resolutions approving the transfer.

“With the bill being officially signed, we are all just in further affirmation of what is going to happen,” said Old Fort Superintendent Steve Anway.

The final step in the transaction is to be for the ESC to pass a resolution setting a date for the property transfer.

The ESC is to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the NCOESC office in Tiffin.

“We are down to the last step,” Anway said. “We have a feeling of security. We have already began the move between the two buildings.”

Anway said a lot of work remains, but it is, “a good feeling.”