Ohio budget bad news for schools

Cuts to local school districts under Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget are now being considered by the Ohio Finance Committee. If the budget currently passes as is, five out of the six Washington County school districts will see a substantial reduction of government funding for fiscal year 2018.

“Marietta City Schools’ five-year forecast budget is approximately $25,000,000 and the proposed legislation has a total reduction of $715,000,” said Marietta City Schools Treasurer Frank Antill. “Part of the reduction is the total phase-out of Personal Property Tax which we were aware of and budgeted for from previous budgets. It is now gone and to my understanding, not being discussed any further.”

Belpre City Schools is projected to see an increase of $107,000 but Treasurer Lance Erlwein said that there are other areas, including the phaseout of the Personal Property Tax result in a decrease from 30 percent of the district’s revenue in 2010 to now just 13 percent.

“From 2010 when House Bill 66 took away PPT until it finally phases out in 2030 or whenever, we will have lost a total of $28 million in revenue over the years,” he said. “The state is taking away money in other areas and we are fighting to preserve that.”

Erlwein further explained that Belpre City Schools is a capped district that receives less state funding than those districts that are on the guarantee already.

“The state owes us $4,330 per student but they cap us at $3,580 per student. We lose $800,000 per year just because of that,” he said. “The state needs to make a funding formula where everyone is on a formula.”

The projected budget for fiscal year 2017 currently stands at $11,93,442 for Belpre.

Marietta City Schools and the other districts are considered guarantee districts but Antill said he is concerned that the guarantee is going to continue to decrease over the years.

“This has been discussed in previous years but never enacted. This is my biggest concern for the upcoming budget,” he said. “How much of the guarantee will they reduce? With salaries and benefits making 70 to 80 percent of school budgets, staffing levels will have to be examined and our business is people. We are anticipating a reduction in funding at this point.”

Frontier Local Schools is currently the only district that will see a reduction in both fiscal year 2018 and 2019 if the budget passes as is.

“We are trying to brace ourselves for a loss between $260,000 to $285,000 in the general budget next year,” said Superintendent Brian Rentsch. “I know we are very concerned but across the state generally every district is concerned.”

The five-year forecast for Frontier sets its general budget right around $7.2 million. Not only is the school system facing the reduction this fiscal year but its officials are preparing for a $16,000 reduction in fiscal year 2018.

“It is due to a direct correlation with enrollment,” said Rentsch. “We are the only district to continue to lose more under this budget.”

Warren Local Schools would see a reduction in final core aid of nearly $614,000. Their total budget is $21 million.

Wolf Creek Local Schools is looking at a $75,000 reduction which is a different number than the original proposal that had the district losing about $170,000. Their general budget is $7.4 million.

“We haven’t discussed it a whole lot yet but we are always worried about budget cuts to our district,” said Wolf Creek’s Treasurer Rachel Miller. “We are just waiting to see how it changes before we decide to take any action because we just don’t know what could change.”

Fort Frye Local Schools is preparing for around a $30,000 reduction if the budget passes.

“With the executive budget we were projected to lose $151,782. This budget is an ongoing process that we watch closely but feel it is still to early to really know what is going to happen,” said Fort Frye Treasurer Stacey Bolden. “It still needs to go to the Senate and significant changes can still be made.”

This budget proposal was released in early February and must be accepted before the new fiscal year begins. The 2018 fiscal year begins July 1 of this year.

By the numbers

If the state budget passes as is, each district will see the following:

¯Marietta City Schools: $715,000 reduction.

¯Warren Local Schools: $616,000 reduction.

¯Frontier Local Schools: $261,000 reduction.

¯Wolf Creek Local Schools: $75,000 reduction.

¯Fort Frye Local Schools: $30,000 reduction.

¯Belpre City Schools: $107,000 increase.

Source: House Bill 64.