Portage County school officials await details on school funding

Record-Courier Staff Report Published:

As school district administrators in Portage County familiarize themselves with the numbers behind Gov. John Kasich's new school funding plan, many are waiting for all the details to surface before gauging how their districts are affected.

With funding estimates announced by the state Wednesday, four of 11 districts in the county are projected to receive increased funding. The first draft projects about a $1.5 million increase for the Ravenna School District, about $858,000 for the Field Local School District, about $457,000 for the Aurora City School District, about $31,000 for the Streetsboro City School District and no increases for the rest of the county's districts.

But those figures are only part of the picture, and all are subject to change as the Ohio Legislature deliberates the budget before approval at the end of June. Funding items such as transportation and career tech have yet to be announced as well.

In a Jan. 31 announcement to school superintendents, Kasich noted that no district will see a drop in funding from the previous budget, and touted the plan as one that restores balance between wealthy and poor districts. The distribution of funds evaluates changes in property valuation and enrollment. The formula is based on what a 20-mill levy would generate in a district with property valuations of $250,000 per student.

"If you are poor, you're going to get more. If you are richer, you're going to get less," he said.

But after looking at initial numbers, some superintendents are scratching their heads.

Windham Superintendent Gregg Isler said he needs to see more details in the funding formula, but is "mildly concerned."

"The preliminary things that came out, they're difficult for me to grasp how someone like Olentangy (north of Columbus) can get such a large increase and others like us can get nothing." Olentangy has a per-pupil property wealth of $191,580 while Windham's is less than $87,500 according to the Ohio Department of Education.

Isler said Windham is the 20th lowest tax valuation in the state used in the governor's plan.

"Maybe there are other components out there, but the first draft is alarming," Isler said.

At Southeast, Superintendent Tom Harrison said he has hopes the plan ultimately will help local property owners.

"I want to believe this results in a funding formula that at least a little bit relieves the local taxpayers from part of the burden," he said.

Harrison was one of several superintendents from Portage who attended a preview of the plan held by Kasich last week.

"We're just taking a cautionary approach. We shall see," he said.

Harrison said some of the numbers provided can't be verified yet.

"We're not panicking over that because we've been told (by the school treasurers association) that more complete information will come out once the bill details are released next week," he said.

Those details will include other funding components such as students with disabilities and the number of economically disadvantaged students.

Crestwood Treasurer Jill Rowe said officials in her district viewed the announcement that the district would not receive funding cuts under the proposal with relief.

She said she was surprised the plan did not offer much aid to rural school districts in Portage and throughout the state.

"It looks like the city school districts benefitted from this," Rowe said. "What about the rest of us?"

Kent Superintendent Joe Giancola said even though his district would not receive additional funding under the plan, he was relieved to see Kasich did not propose cuts in state aid.

"We were encouraged that (Kasich) has made some commitments to trying to maintain his support to schools on the foundation side," Giancola said.

Giancola said Kasich has also hinted at policies that could benefit districts with large numbers of impoverished students and students in special education, but also private schools voucher programs. He said district officials were excited about the first two possibilities, but not aid for charter schools.

"If (Kasich) increases dollars for private school vouchers, that says to me there will be less dollars for public school programs," Giancola said.

While state officials claim Aurora schools will receive about $457,000 more in funding in fiscal year 2014 than in fiscal year 2013, Aurora Superintendent Russ Bennett said that is not true. Bennett said his district will receive about the same amount from the state next year as it did this year.

Aurora Treasurer Bill Volosin agreed, saying the district will receive about $3.4 million from the state next year -- the same as it got this year.

"There won't be any increase in fiscal year 2014," Volosin said. "They're showing that we're getting an increase, but we're really not. So we're looking at status quo for next year. We're anticipating no increase -- and no decrease, either, which is a good thing."

Streetsboro Treasurer Catherine Rouse said her district needs to see more details of Kasich's proposal.

"At this point in time, the governor's plan is simply a proposal that still may change," she said. "I am certainly grateful for any increase that Streetsboro may receive; however, $31,729 is minimal in comparison to the cuts we've endured."

Field Treasurer Jim Vokac said the estimated $858,000 the district is projected to gain in "not a windfall" once some of the other funding changes are factored in. About $200,000 the district was receiving through special funds have been lumped in with the new figure, he said.

"Basically, that $858,000 is not an apples-to-apples comparison because there are numbers that are skewing it," Vokac said.

On Monday, Field placed a 5-mill levy on the ballot, recognizing that if it is approved, the district is still facing about $900,000 in cuts.

Vokac said the increase in state funds may allow the district to reconsider some cuts, such as a $100,000 reduction in books and supplies, but they won't plug the hole.

Rootstown schools already projected no increase in state funding in its five-year financial forecast in October, Superintendent Andrew Hawkins said.

Hawkins said he went to Columbus last week to hear Kasich's plan. He said he was "cautiously optimistic" until seeing the numbers and realizing that while Rootstown wouldn't see any cuts, it also wouldn't receive any additional money under the governor's proposal.

"In the end, it's about what we thought," he said, predicting that "much will change between now and when this becomes law, once the legislature gets hold of it and makes changes."

Waterloo Superintendent Andrew Hill said although the district is still processing the information, it had already budgeted for no increase in funding.

"We had projected flat funding from the state for all of the years in the forecast, so if what he's presenting folds out to be the case when the whole legislative process is done at the end of June, then the immediate impact for Waterloo is what we projected," Hill said.

Hill, who was in the audience of superintendents during Kasich's announcement, said the numbers don't match the expectations of administrators he's talked to.

"There's a sense of confusion between what he said last week and what actually carries out into practice when you look at those sheets," he said. "When we heard, 'redistributing to poorer districts,' me, personally, and others would expect rural areas that have been hit hard and don't have a lot of wealth to see an increase and for whatever reason, that's not the case."

On Wednesday, Ravenna Superintendent Dennis Honkala said it's early in the process and it is too early to say if Ravenna will receive the $1.5 million increase.

A message seeking comment was left Thursday for James A. Garfield School District Superintendent Chuck Klamer.

Record-Courier reporters Tom Gallick, Kyle McDonald, Dave O'Brien and Mike Sever, Gateway News Editor Bob Gaetjens and Record Publishing reporter Mike Lesko contributed to this story.

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  • @Hiram... Something to think about this fine Sabbath evening. Proverbs 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. Psalm 119:165..Great Peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. SHALOM HIRAM !!

  • Personally, the problem usually seems to stem from extremist views on both sides of the issue and people not getting all the facts. For instance, a second grade teacher at a public school makes anywhere from $33,000 per year plus benefits to $80,000 per year plus benefits. Where else can two people be performing the exact same job but due solely to seniority have such a pay discrepancy? In fact, the one making more may actually not even be doing the same quality of work as the one making less. Why? Because of unions. Plus, I think people need to look at the actual salaries and contracts of all school employees so they really know what they are talking about with their district. For instance, most administrators not only make large salaries but their benefit packages would astound people. Most districts pay the employee and employer portion of all administrative benefits. Districts need to be realistic and realize that there is only so much tax money available and that everytime a levy passes it increases the taxes of a family and is essentially asking them to take a pay cut in their family finances to accommodate a pay increase for a school employee. If you are elderly and on a fixed income, it can have serious and harsh impacts on your family while it helps a teachers family. People need to keep both sides of this in mind with all levies. Saying that, obviously I would love if more of our state tax dollars went to funding education and its sad where the state govt prioritizes their budget, but local levies are not the answer. As far as people saying, well you can go be a teacher if you want their pay/benefits. Lets also remember the flip side of that, don't become a teacher if you can't live with the fact that your pay is dependant on families voting for levies that affect their overall family incomes in order to finance your careers. Don't become a teacher if you are in it for the money or feel entitled to pay increases over someone else.

  • Today's Jeopardy answer is: Negativity and self pity runs deep through his blood. The record courier recently took a poll and it was unanimous, the man is a parasite to society...... If you said, Who is Redleg6?... You are a winner!

  • I am not trying to upset anyone on here. I am keeping on pace with the issue. Seems to me the biggest complaint on here is the opinion that teachers make to much money. I know for a fact, there is no one forced to work in any position in the U.S. So the fact is that we had and still have an opportunity to go and get that degree and become a teacher, an engineer, a doctor. Fact is I would not ask you to take a pay cut in your job, nor will I ask a teacher. We are the first to say cant wait for summer to end so these kids go back to school. I want them going back to get a good education, from overqualified individuals that in my opinion do not get paid enough to put up with my own kids. Thank you.

  • I am giving you what I believe to be facts. As for the levy i will say "yes". It will help our children and our property values. So it is a win, win.

  • We live in a nation where we can make choices. My choice was not to be a teacher. Just as justathought and redleg obviously did not choose that profession. So for you individuals that get so mad, it was your choice to either go to college or not to. As for loan forgiveness, I am pretty sure that depends on location of school. If the school is located in a poorer community the teacher can apply, but not all loans are forgiven. As for tax right off for school supplies, the max is 250.00. And the teachers do have families to take care of, just like you and I. Thank you.

  • @Rascal12... We are commenting on issues. Not about Redleg6. Lets keep it about the content of the opinions, the issues, not personal remarks such as Redleg6 is angry. You want to discredit me and my comments. Why? Because I think for myself and form my own opinions. Such tactics are out of the Saul Alinsky play book. Kill the messenger, but the fact are facts, kids books vs pay union. What is ya go'na Do?

  • Red, Totally agree... cutting the very supplies that are need to do a job makes no sense. Also as ras points out they need to have training. after all no other profession requires that right? and of course there arent any special breaks for those teachers in getting the money for that training is there? There arent any special programs where loans are reduced or forgiven for teachers... nope not a one. We all know they have the most dangerous job out there too.and as for bringing in materials they don't get and tax break on claiming that right off the top do they? Those teachers have needs and they are entitled don't ya know. They have families to take care of and it's our job to make sure they live far better than we commoners and don't you forget it either.

  • Redleg 6 you are obviously upset. Again like I said before if you are so upset by what a teacher makes and you understand what a teacher pays to get that education, then by all means go to College and get that degree and become a teacher. There is no excuse for you to obtain that degree. And I believe the reduction in books and supplies refereed to in the article is new books. Science is always changing so for a school to keep up with that they need to update their books. I believe that is what they are talking about. Thank you.

  • Btr@ Cut Kids books and supplies, yeah that's the ticket.

  • "73-83% of the budget goes to wages/benes." Schools are in the business of educating students. That would explain why the majority of money goes to salaries. It's not a factory that produces nuts and bolts that are sold on the open market. It's a school! You invest in the employees to improve results. In a factory, you invest in machinery to improve results. Teachers are the machines required to operate the process. I for one, want the best for my kids and understand that it takes money to get the best. You simple don't attract the best teachers when they can go elsewhere and get higher paying jobs.

  • When you have to spend all of your money on wages/benes, and then cut the Books/Supplies for the Children, it seems to me, the Tail is Wagging the dog! School is for Children. They shouldn't be held hostage by the union. rascal12 stated "but teachers of today are actually putting their lives on the line". Rascal12 Please! Maybe during contract talks this summer, the teachers can ask for hazardous duty pay, flak jackets, and helmets. My only concern is, pay the teachers what the districts can afford. 73/83% of budget goes to the employees (union), about 20% for the kids. Doesn't that seem out of balance to anybody? The kids aren't the strain on the budget, its the boot of the union on the neck of the school districts, could that be the cause of the money problems. Demands, Demands, the union feels they are entitled. Come summer, don't give into union DEMANDS, and see how much they are for the Children. rascal12; Go to college to be a teacher, why? All the schools are broke, the communities are broke, taxpayers are going broke. The college educated are bankrupting the country. The best and brightest, the Educate, run everything. And we are BROKE! We have to borrow from Communist China to keep afloat! Do they teach balancing a check book in college? The Union need to get ready to lower their standard of living like everyone else. That is part of the Hope And Change everybody wanted. SHALOM!

  • First off I am not a teacher. Everyone bashes how much a teacher makes. Do you forget that the state make them get at least a masters degree. Plus they have to consistently take credits to keep up with new ways to teach our children. Lot of teachers also pay out of pocket for supplies to help educate our children. Not to mention, sad to say but teachers of today are actually putting their lives on the line. So how about we leave the teachers alone and pass a budget. If you are so mad about how much a teacher makes then go to college and become a teacher. Thank you.

  • Redleg: I agree with the comment about wanting to cut books and supplies. What?!!!!. What was Vokac thinking when he said that? That makes no sense to me! Just like this entire Kasich proposal makes not sense in how it's distributed. Then again, that's our good ole American government. Sheez. Ridiculous and unbelievable what is being presented here from Columbus. Ridiculous and unbelieveable but not surprising.

  • "The preliminary things that came out, they're difficult for me to grasp how someone like Olentangy (north of Columbus) can get such a large increase and others like us can get nothing." Olentangy has a per-pupil property wealth of $191,580 while Windham's is less than $87,500 according to the Ohio Department of Education. Isler said Windham is the 20th lowest tax valuation in the state used in the governor's plan. "Maybe there are other components out there, but the first draft is alarming," Isler said. "There's a sense of confusion between what he said last week and what actually carries out into practice when you look at those sheets," he said. "When we heard, 'redistributing to poorer districts,' me, personally, and others would expect rural areas that have been hit hard and don't have a lot of wealth to see an increase and for whatever reason, that's not the case." ***** You're not kidding Mr. Isler and Dr. Hill!

  • On Monday, Field placed a 5-mill levy on the ballot, recognizing that if it is approved, the district is still facing about $900,000 in cuts. Field Treasurer Vokac said "the increase in state funds may allow the district to reconsider some cuts, such as a $100,000 reduction in books and supplies, but they won't plug the hole"....Field is going to reduce the purchase of books and supplies? I thought it was about the Kids? 73-83% of the budget goes to wages/benes. Cut the salaries! Not Childrens books/supplies. You are in the business of teaching children, not coddelling the union! I think the union would be happy to sacrifice and reduce labor cost so the kids can have books/supplies. Yeah, Right!