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Slight funding hike possible for Aurora schools

FROM STAFF REPORTS Published: February 8, 2017 1:00 AM
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AURORA -- Most Portage County school districts are expected to lose funding under a budget proposal from Gov. John Kasich's office. However, Aurora, Ravenna and Streetsboro may come out ahead.

The proposed figures work out to potential cuts of 5 percent for the Crestwood, Southeast and Waterloo districts; about 4 percent for Field and 1 percent or less for James A. Garfield, Rootstown and Windham schools.

The Kent schools could see a drop of 3.7 percent in state support, or roughly $487,200.

According to preliminary figures released Feb. 3, Aurora stands to gain about $2,400 (0.1 percent) in fiscal year 2018 over the $4,789,502 it received in 2017, but that 2018 figure would stay the same in 2019. Ravenna and Streetsboro are proposed to see gains of 5 percent.

"The proposed state budget is what we had anticipated," said Aurora Superintendent Pat Ciccantelli. "Our treasurer has forecast that the state revenues will remain flat. Our local revenues only increased about 1 percent this past year.

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"We are seeking new local money to be able to provide the necessary revenue to maintain our current level of programs and services due to prior state funding cutbacks of $6 million, large increases in employee health care costs and inflationary pressures."

Kasich said earlier last week that he is proposing a $200 million increase in funding for primary and secondary schools over the biennium. But that doesn't mean all districts will receive more money next year than they did in the current year.

He has proposed lowering the guarantee base districts receive if schools lost more than 5 percent of their student enrollment.

Those that have grown or lost up to 5 percent would be guaranteed the same funding total they are receiving this fiscal year. Those that have lost more than 5 percent would see that guarantee drop to, at most, 95 percent of the current year total.

Portage area superintendents are quick to point out that the budget proposals are preliminary, and could change dramatically once the state legislature finalizes plans for school funding in the next biennium.

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The governor's office and area superintendents said the funding proposals are based on student enrollment.

Dennis Honkala, superintendent of Ravenna schools, said the proposal shows his district gaining 5 percent in state funding, or about $500,000 over two years.

He said the governor's proposal comes out by late January or early February, and then the Ohio House, which is more fiscally conservative, tends to cut the aid proposals. The Ohio Senate often proposes something in the middle, and a conference committee proposes a compromise.

A final proposal is not expected until May or June.

The Kent schools are set to receive a drop of $487,215.

"We're disappointed and concerned," said Superintendent George Joseph. "But we know from previous experience that the legislature will look into these numbers. We just have to wait and see, but plan accordingly."

In Columbus, Tim Keen, director of Ohio's Office of Budget and Management, told reporters Feb. 3:

"I think we have the best opportunity we've had in a long time to get this guarantee proposal adopted into law. I think we have targeted it and crafted it in such a way that it makes sense. If you lost an appreciable number of students, why should we continue to pay you the same amount of money that we previously did?"

"Just go out on the street and take a poll of people," Keen said. "This district lost 17 percent of its kids, should we pay it the same amount of money that we did last year? Where else in the world would that happen but in school funding? I think that's the test the members of the general assembly ought to use to judge."


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