SCHOOLS SEE NO GAIN

by Jeff Saunders | reporter Published:

Nordonia Hills -- School district officials are hoping that state funding under a proposed two-year budget released by Gov. John Kasich Jan. 31 will not decrease in the next fiscal year.

"We have to keep our fingers crossed," said District Treasurer Karen Obratil.

According to figures released by Kasich's office, the district would receive about $3.58 million next year, the same amount as this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

"That's a big relief. We were nervous that it would be cut and we're happy to see it has not been," said Superintendent Joe Clark. "It's not law yet, but assuming everything goes as planned then we're OK, but if it's tweaked or reduced as it goes through the General Assembly, that will be a different story, but right now we're cautiously optimistic that we're status quo."

Obratil said the district currently receives a guaranteed amount, but Clark said that there is a possibility that this could change after the 2013-14 fiscal year and he is concerned about that.

"Our nervousness comes from what happens in the next year because the governor has said he doesn't like the guarantee," said Clark, referring to the rogram under which school districts are guaranteed a steady level of state support from one year to the next.

When Kasich released his budget, he said that no school district would lose money and some would gain, with amounts based on a formula that takes income levels and property valuations into account. As one of the more affluent districts, Clark had previously said he did not expect the district would benefit under the proposed budget.

By comparison, Twinsburg City Schools would see their state allotment more than double, from about $2.68 million this fiscal year to about $5.47 million next year.

According to Jim Lynch, with the Ohio Office of Budget Management, Kasich's plan, called Achievement Everywhere, guarantees every school district receives core opportunity aid regardless of the growth in state aid this could cause.

Lynch said Twinsburg is a "limited" district and saw the significant increase in state basic aid between 2013 and 2014 for that reason.

"For these limited districts, who have been limited in the growth of their state aid in recent years without regard to increases in student enrollment or changing tax bases, you will see increases above 25 percent," Lynch said. "Twinsburg is one of the districts that sees an increase higher than 25 percent in order to ensure they receive the core opportunity level of funding."

The budget plan is also designed to increase funding for such areas as disabled and gifted students and English as a second language programs.

However, Obratil said that any increases in these "individual categories" will not make any difference to the overall amount the district receives from the state.

"The bottom line is we're receiving the same amount we're receiving this year," she said, noting the district will remain largely dependent on local taxpayers to support its $38.5 million budget.

Kasich's budget proposal comes after voters rejected a 3-mill operating levy last November, a year after they approved a 6-mill operating levy in November 2011. District officials say that the 3-mill levy would have raised about $2.8 million annually, with a plan to use about $800,000 to restore some budget cuts that have been made in the last few years, including increasing busing and adding six teachers, two of them foreign language, to Nordonia Middle School. According to the district's current five-year financial forecast, the district is projecting it will remain in the black through 2015, but Obratil previously estimated that the district would have been able to stretch this out for another two years with the $2 million cushion the November levy would have generated.

As it stands, district officials say they may make another levy attempt as early as this November.

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9432

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