Kasich proposed his state budget in February, including funding increases to all public school districts in Scioto County next year, from $73,359,243 in FY11 to $78,018,138 in FY12, and then again to $78,585,128 in FY13.
“Really, there was substantial cuts in this,” said Lowell Howard, superintendent of the South Central Ohio Educational Services Center (SCOESC) in Portsmouth.
According to the SCOESC, Scioto County public school districts will lose $12,165,551, resulting in the reduction in force (RIF) of 111 employees.
“Let me be specifically clear that this does not represent all of the cuts. We have additional cuts in special education. We were just notified that in the budget bill coming through right now, all special education funds for all of these schools have been capped. That means additional kids that have been confirmed that need services — and by federal law these districts must serve these kids — there will be no additional funding for them,” Howard said.
He said local schools will be adding three multiple disability units this year in addition to the one added last year, which means they will have to set up for four classrooms, four teachers and four teaching aids with no additional money.
Delinquent local taxes also result in less revenue collected for the school districts. According to Scioto County Auditor David Green, there are $8,639,892 in total delinquent property taxes in Scioto County. The portion of that money that each school should collect varies from one school district to the next.
“We’ve been in this downward spiral of state aid funding,” said Wheelersburg Superintendent Mark Knapp. “Those things, on top of increases that we’ve had to take on health care and trying to provide benefits to our staff, it really puts a crunch on our budget.”
Kasich’s budget proposes Wheelersburg will increase its general revenue funding from $6,198,314 in 2011 to $6,503,126 in 2012, and then to $6,571,405. That’s an increase of $373,091 from FY11 to FY13, but the district will still lose $1,422,000 in stimulus funding. As a result of the loss, Wheelersburg will reduce 11 employees.
“At Valley, they had been in a bad spending pattern for seven years and last year we cut 18 positions at Valley. At that time I’m not sure that we could have absorbed any more cuts, yet we knew there was some money that was going to disappear in stimulus dollars and we just limped by a year at a time. We also cut 13 this year, so we’ve cut 31 people in two years,” Valley Superintendent Paul White said.
The governor’s budget proposes general revenue funding to Valley would increase from $6,741,665 in 2011 to $7,165,245 in 2012, and then $7,132,480 in 2013. The district will also lose $1,320,000 in stimulus money.
White likened Kasich’s budget to playing a shell game with school funding.
Washington-Nile Superintendent Patricia Ciraso said the districts have tried not let suffer the education of students or pass too much stress on to the community.
“If this goes through for a half-day kindergarten, and they’re telling us you can charge tuition for the other half of the day, there are no districts that I’m aware of in this county that are even going to try that. Because we know economically our people can’t afford it. They’re getting laid off, too,” Ciraso said.
Portsmouth School Treasurer Kyle Smith said his district is losing about $1.7 million in various stimulus funding programs. Superintendent Scott Dutey said they knew some of that money was being phased out over several years, but the district was caught off guard when they suddenly lost them all at once.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed and we assume we’ll find out for sure in July (when and if the governor signs the new budget), but at this point we don’t have any expectations for a reduction. We do have at this point eight of our teaching staff that’s going to retire and one of our non-certified secretaries,” Dutey said.
He said the district has not yet decided whether they will fill those vacant positions or absorb them through attrition.
“We’re looking at ourselves and what we’ve done in the past and how we’ve spent dollars,” Dutey said.
Six months ago, Portsmouth Schools was fearing double-digit percentage cuts from the governor’s budget, Smith said, and they were relieved to find it wasn’t that bad. He said, in all, the district is only taking cut of about 7 or 8 percent. Kasich’s budget has Portsmouth increasing its general revenue funding from $17,288,948 in 2011 to $18,414,540 in 2012, and then $18,616,875 in 2013.
Some residents of Scioto County have suggested that smaller schools should consider consolidating districts, staff and resources to save money. New Boston Superintendent Mike Staggs dismissed the criticism and said if local taxpayers want to support a local school district, then that’s their decision to make.
New Boston did have public meetings with Sciotoville Community Schools in 2008 to discuss thoughts about consolidation, but an agreement could never be reached and both communities largely opposed the idea. Among the largest sticking points was whether the school would be located in New Boston or Sciotoville, and whether they would be “Tigers” or “Tartans.”
Kasich’s budget proposes the village school district receive an increase of general revenue funding from $1,569,897 in 2011 to $1,677,982 in 2012, and then $1,718,274 in 2013. The district will lose $450,000 in stimulus money, and reduce six staff positions.
Some districts have gone to their employees and asked for their help to manage the cuts.
“We are at a place where the union is supposed to get a 2 percent increase in raises for next year, plus step indexes, and we have told them we want to reduce the number of cuts and you can assist with that. If you’ll take a 2 percent cut next year you can save two additional jobs. If you take a step index cut you can save three jobs. We also have people who are eligible for retirement that have chosen not to participate and we’ve put out incentives for that,” Valley’s Paul White said.
He said another problem for the district is, if they lay off an employee they have to pay the unemployment themselves until the former employee gets another job. Since most of them are educators, White said, they’ll probably want a job in education and there aren’t many of them left; so they could be paying unemployment for a very long time.
“Some people have used the analogy that you have to cut two positions to save one,” he said.
Another criticism often heard in the community is that school administrators should be the ones burdening the cuts instead of dropping it all onto teachers, bus drivers and other school employees. Many districts have already accepted administrative cuts and salary freezes.
“Minford has put together a plan that everybody has felt the cut. It was from the top down,” Minford Superintendent Mark Wilcheck said. “That plan was presented and everyone looked at it and then they said they wanted to go to the table and negotiate. The other unions said no, and the administrators all said if it saves jobs and we’re not handing out pink slips then we’re OK,” Wilcheck said.
The district is considering options such as moving ninth grade sports to junior varsity so they can eliminate coaching positions, collecting past due lunch charges and capping the student charge limit, and reducing its bus route. Wilcheck said the district is, by law, only required to provide bus service for grades K-8 and within a two-mile radius of the school.
Kasich’s budget proposes Minford will have an increase in general revenue funding from $8,891,450 in 2011 to $9,418,695 in 2012, and then $9,422,119 in 2013. The district will also lose $1,394,843 in stimulus money and reduce four staff positions.
Ciraso warned administrators that “no position is sacred.” Administrators at Valley have also already accepted cuts, including Superintendent Paul White who is paid at a greatly reduced rate than for which he normally qualifies with his 35 years of experience.
“To ask that we give up more, I just don’t think we can get the job done,” White said.
Kasich’s budget proposal was accepted in the Republican-led Ohio House of Representatives last week and now awaits a vote in the equally Republican-led State Senate.
“It’s not official until the governor signs it, but he’s got a House and Senate that are in his court,” Kyle Smith said.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235, or email@example.com.