The bad news for the Olentangy School District funding, as stated in the latest version of the state budget bill, seems to outweigh the good.
The good news: the Senate passed the bill that would award $7.5 million to the Olentangy district. Of the proposals, this number was on the higher end of the scale, which went as low as about $4 million, said board president Julie Wagner Feasel.
The bad news: Olentangy is still set to lose $11.5 million over the next two years through the accelerated phase-out of the tangible personal property tax (TPPT) — a proposal the district had hoped the state would reconsider.
“We’re still receiving less money over all,” said Wagner Feasel.
Although the $7.5 million in school funding is $4.5 more than what Olentangy had projected, it does not make up for the unanticipated loss of the TPPT revenue, which Olentangy had expected to receive until 2018.
Furthermore, the $7.5 million as stated in the two-year budget bill is only to apply for the coming fiscal year. A new funding formal is to be created for fiscal year 2013, so it is unclear what Olentangy will receive, Wagner Feasel said. The bill — scheduled to be signed into law Thursday — has more silver lining for Olentangy, however.
The outlined budget includes a reward for “excellent” school districts, a distinction Wagner Feasel said Olentangy is likely to earn again.
She said the bill would award an additional $17 per student in such districts, which would amount to about $288,320 for the Olentangy district each year it qualifies.
The district spends about $9,000 per student each year, according to Olentangy officials.
While Wagner Feasel said the bonus for high performing schools “doesn’t quite make up” for the loss in TPPT, she said the latest version of the bill “isn’t as bad as what we expected.”
Wagner Feasel credited the efforts of the district’s School Funding Action Committee (SFAC), and the responsiveness of representatives Andrew Brenner and Kris Jordan.
The SFAC chair and district treasurer had testified against the accelerated TPPT phase out before the Senate and House committees.
In an April interview with The Gazette, Representative Brenner (R-Powell) said he advocated for a 20-percent cap on government cuts to school funding after it looked as though Olentangy would experience a 44-percent cut.
“The state budget cuts could have been a lot worse,” said Wagner Feasel. “But because of the actions of the School Funding Action Committee, it did help us maintain a little more in school funding.”
“If anything positive came from this, it’s that local officials did listen to us,” she added.
She said the district will continue to evaluate administrative positions, explore other health program options with its insurance task force, and other opportunities to cut costs.
Aside from budget-related issues, the Senate-approved bill includes a state-wide teacher evaluation system. Specifics about this process are to be determined by the Ohio Department of Education by December 2011, after which local school boards are to have the opportunity to add an additional category on which to base it’s own teachers.
The House is scheduled to vote on the budget bill today, and Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign it by Thursday.