If the final numbers of Ohio’s biennial school funding remain close to current projections, area school districts will receive a mixed bag that may leave some superintendents disappointed.
But while some local school districts will be treated better than others, there is shared concern over the significant loss of revenue from the tangible personal property tax (TPP) due to a veto by Gov. John Kasich.
Superintendent Jeff Schlade is cautiously optimistic there will be little or no change in the estimations for Swanton schools. Projected figures show a total of an additional $387,878 for Fiscal Year 2016, an eight percent bump, and an added $396,256 the following fiscal year.
Still, those figures are based on estimates related to Education Management Information System data, enrollment projections, and other information, Schlade emphasized. And that data reveals a slight but continuing decline in the district’s enrollment, although open enrollment figures show fewer students leaving the district for neighboring schools.
Swanton schools also face what Schlade calls the “factual decreases” that will come with the loss of TPP tax revenue, about $266,000 over the next two years. “Hopefully, that decreased burden on local industry will attract and/or keep additional businesses to the area, but it is one area that we will need to make up for,” he said.
If the projections don’t change, the school district will earmark some or all of the additional funding to a 1:1 computer device initiative over several years. “(W)e have an educational obligation to build upon the technological knowledge our students bring to their school desk each day,” Schlade said.
Pike-Delta-York Superintendent Jay LeFevre said last week he has seen several projections, and finds it difficult to know what exactly to expect. The Department of Education estimates show $33,210 expected for 2015-16, and another $106,668 the following fiscal year.
“It appears P-D-Y will get a minimal increase, yet remain at levels below what I believe we should be receiving,” LeFevre said. “The governor’s veto of the TPP component in Fiscal Year 17 negatively impacts on our funding, along with many districts. I feel that P-D-Y, and public education generally, is underfunded, placing an undue stress on the local community.”
He said with a combination of voter support, continued fiscal responsibility, and the assumption of stable state funding, “we should be able to function well for the next several years. “
Evergreen Local Schools haven’t gotten new state money in the last six or seven years, Superintendent Jim Wyse said. “If we received any additional state funds we’ll be happy.”
The school district is projected to get $9,760 in Fiscal Year 2016, and another $223,131 the following fiscal year. Wyse said he doesn’t count the funding until it’s received.
The problem the school district faces lies in the fact that local farm values increase “and (the state) thinks we’re rich, so they cut our funding,” he said. “We’re fortunate our local taxpayers have stepped up and helped. We’d like to see more money coming from Columbus.”
He also would like to be assured the state will honor its guarantee that no school district will receive less funding than the prior year. That argument is still taking place among Kasich and legislators.
The district’s enrollment has dropped in some areas, Wyse said. “If the guarantee is removed we could end up losing quite a lot of money. Our district would be harmed.”
Because the district is primarily agricultural, the TPP tax doesn’t have the same impact as it does in more industrial-based school districts, he said.
“I’m just holding my breath,” Wyse said. “If they don’t take more money away, that would be good for us. Right now, we’re sitting on a decent cash balance, so we can weather a year or two.”
The Wauseon school district is projected to get a little more than $1 million additional in the coming school year, with an additional $398,474 the following year. But Karen Dameron, the district’s treasurer, said those amounts are very susceptible to change.
“The dollar amounts they provided are not definitive numbers. They’re still at the estimated level,” she cautioned.
She said the school district ended Fiscal Year 2015 in better than normal financial position, thanks to a change in real estate valuations. Reappraisals this year hiked local property worth and put an additional $235,000 in the school district’s coffers.
Dameron said for now the additional state money will go into the school district’s general fund. Because the amounts listed are still speculative “we are just waiting to see,” she said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.