State school aid figures disputed

Published:

FROM STAFF REPORTS

While state officials claim Aurora schools will receive close to a half million more in funding in 2014 than in 2013, Superintendent Russ Bennett and Treasurer Bill Volosin say that is not true.

Volosin claims the district will receive about $3.4 million from the state next year -- the same as it got this year.

With funding estimates announced by the state Feb. 6, four of 11 districts in the county, including Aurora, are projected to receive increased funding.

The first draft projects about a $1.5 million increase for Ravenna, about $858,000 for Field, about $457,000 for Aurora, about $31,000 for Streetsboro and no increases for the remaining districts.

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

The state's figures 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.

In a Jan. 31 announcement to school superintendents, Gov. John 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," Kasich said.

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

"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," said Windham Superintendent Gregg Isler.

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.

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

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

Crestwood Treasurer Jill Rowe said officials in her district viewed the announcement that the district would not receive funding cuts with relief, but said she was surprised the plan did not offer much aid to rural school districts in Portage and throughout the state.

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.

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