limaohio.com

State schools budget showers Shawnee, leaves others cold

February 7, 2013

LIMA —Shawnee schools could get a decent pot of money from the state, but Superintendent Paul Nardini says Gov. John Kasich’s proposed school funding plan is flawed.



“It seems real fair for Shawnee, but it does not address the school funding issue,” he said. “There are so many zeros there. What are all the other schools in the state of Ohio going to do?”



Based on school funding estimates released by the state, Shawnee schools could see a 31.4 percent increase in funding the first year of the budget and a 20.84 percent boost the second year. If the funding moves forward as proposed, Shawnee would be the big winner locally, followed by Bath schools, which is expected to get 25 percent increases both years.



Expected to be out of money in 2016, Shawnee can use the money. Along with Bath, Shawnee was hit hard by the early phase-out of reimbursements districts were getting from the elimination of tangible personal property taxes they received from business.



With the budget still needing to go before the House and Senate, no one is counting on getting what the estimate forecasts.



“I am not going to go out and spend that money; let me put it that way,” Nardini said.



The estimates do not include transportation, career-technical education or preschool funds. Barbara Mattei-Smith, Kasich's assistant policy director for education, said in a conference call Thursday appropriations for transportation are expected to stay the same, with career-tech money increasing a bit.



The estimates also do not take into account $300 million in innovation money schools could seek on a one-time basis.



School officials in the early stages of reviewing the numbers are scratching their heads. Based on Kasich’s presentation to superintendents last week, many believed high-poverty districts would do best under the formula, but that does not seem to be the case. The governor said the formula would take into account factors like property values, income levels, students with disabilities and student poverty rates.



“Based on the governor’s speech last week and that the funding would be based on property values, poverty and the kids’ needs, I did anticipate a higher increase,” Lima schools Treasurer Ryan Stechschulte said. “Some of these high-poverty districts aren’t getting any increases. I don’t understand.”



Lima schools is expected to get a 5.54 percent increase the first year and a 6.91 percent the second year. Mattei-Smith points to a fundamental shift in what the state and school districts look like today compared to five years ago. That includes declining property values, the loss of tangible personal property taxes and enrollment changes.



“Some of the changes are like we are resetting the system,” she said.



Elida schools will see a 12.13 percent increase in year one, but nothing the following year. Elida is expected to get $7.1 million from the state in the first year. Treasurer Joel Parker said that is less than the district was getting a decade ago.



“That points to the fact that we have no inflationary growth from the state,” he said. “And to me they have in no way near fixed the fact that we are still unconstitutional in the way we are funded because we will have to go back to the local voters. It does not fix that flaw in the formula.”



Of the state’s 612 school districts, 396 (60 percent) will not get any additional funds. Among them are Allen East, Bluffton, Perry, Spencerville and all schools in Putnam County.



Columbus Grove schools Superintendent Nick Verhoff said the district had been optimistic it would get some additional money. The district has received about $150,000 less per year from the state since the 2009-10 school year.



“On one hand, we are happy that we did not get cut any more in terms of state funding, but we were hoping to get some sort of increase to help offset those previous dollars that were cut,” Verhoff said.



Only Wapakoneta and Minster will see increases in Auglaize County, and only Kenton schools will get anything in Hardin County. Only Van Wert schools and Vantage Career Center will see increases in Van Wert County.



Stechschulte and Parker said it is too soon to tell how the funding will impact districts, and both suspect there will be changes before the budget is signed into law in June. Both also expect much lobbying, especially from those districts seeing zeros now.



“If we have 396 schools seeing no increases, how is that legislative process going to impact these numbers and the way it is going to shake out in the end?” Parker said.



No district in the state will lose money under the new formula. Overall, basic aid to schools would increase 6 percent in the first year and 3.2 percent in the second.