School funding may remain status quo


By Casey S. Elliott - celliott@civitasmedia.com



State funding changes from the Ohio state budget approval are just now becoming clear, and area school district officials are attempting to be optimistic about their income.

Area districts are seeing flat to slightly increased state funding, but administrators remain cautious until those numbers become clearer later this year.

The 2016-17 biennium state budget increased the state per-pupil funding in the school funding formula from $5,800 in fiscal year 2015 to $5,900 in fiscal year 2016 and $6,000 in fiscal year 2017, according to an Ohio Department of Education press release. The budget also increases funding for areas such as special education, K-3 literacy and career-technical education.

A new component in the school funding formula will reward school districts based on their high school graduation rates and reading proficiency. It will also include funding for districts with a low capacity to raise revenue locally and supplemental transportation funds for low-density districts, the education department said.

No district will see its funding fall below fiscal year 2015 levels, according to the education department.

Both Urbana City Schools and Triad Local Schools are expecting flat funding from the state budget, while Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools may see a slight increase.

Urbana Treasurer Mandy Hildebrand said her district is expecting flat funding for both years of the biennium, based on state projections. However, there may be a loss of $534,070 in school year 2016-17 because of the potential phase out of Tangible Personal Property Tax collections.

The school district reduced expenses in 2013, which was part of the reorganization and consolidation of the elementary schools. That change helped the district save money, which has contributed to a cash balance in case something catastrophic occurs. As long as the district’s levies are renewed, it should remain in the black, Hildebrand said.

“While the district is optimistic that it appears we will not see a reduction in state aid based on (enrollment) over the course of the budget, the loss of the Tangible Personal Property Tax Reimbursement is cause for some concern,” she said. “A loss of a half-million dollars is small percentage-wise, but it does reduce the cash carryover balance year-to-year that has been forecasted and ends up reducing the total funding per pupil amount in our district.”

Mechancisburg is expecting a small increase in state funding both years, Treasurer Scott Maruniak said, but he remains cautious with the funding until he sees hard numbers. The district has recovered from cuts made in prior years and is now in a more comfortable financial place.

Mechanicsburg has recently become more financially stable, he said. “Additional revenue will add to that stability while allowing continued excellent classroom instruction, facilities management and extracurricular opportunities. In addition, even though we are currently financially stable and may see an increase in state funding, we still will depend upon the renewal of our income tax levy.”

Maruniak added he does not expect drastic cuts to come anytime soon to the district.

Triad Local Schools Superintendent Chris Piper and Treasurer Connie Cohn said the state funding projections are flat for their district. The district has discontinued some programs and replaced them with others to meet student needs, which has also helped control costs.

They said they remain “cautiously optimistic.”

Treasurers said they expect to have more clarity on their funding later in October this year.

By Casey S. Elliott

celliott@civitasmedia.com

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.