Both the Cuyahoga Falls and Woodridge school districts would receive more state money according to Gov. John Kasich's proposed "Achievement Everywhere" school funding plan.
According to preliminary estimates released by state officials Feb. 6, the Cuyahoga Falls City School District would be awarded about $11.97 million in Fiscal Year 2014, a 9.48 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2013. The district would also be in line to receive about $12.66 million in Fiscal Year 2015, a 5.74 percent increase over the previous year.
Meanwhile, the Woodridge Local School District is projected to receive about $1.08 million in Fiscal Year 2014, a 128.9 percent increase from the $472,061 it is receiving in Fiscal Year 2013, according to figures from the state. Despite what the figures say on the state's spreadsheet, however, Woodridge officials said the district will not see any increase in its state funding from Fiscal Year 2013 to Fiscal Year 2014.
This school funding plan is part of Kasich's proposed biennium budget bill.
"The … district currently receives $1,082,000 in state funding," said Woodridge Local School District Treasurer Deanna Levenger in an email to the Falls News-Press Feb. 6. "We are currently a 'guarantee district' because the current state funding formula does not work for us. We are guaranteed the same amount that we received the previous year."
Levenger added that the $472,061 listed on the state's spreadsheet under Fiscal Year 2013 for the district "is the amount the district would receive based on the current state funding without the 'guarantee.' The district has been a guarantee district since at least 2000. The guarantee simply guarantees that the district does not receive less state funding than the previous year."
This means that the district will not see any increase in its state funding from Fiscal Year 2013 to Fiscal Year 2014. However, the district would, under the proposal, receive about $1.35 million in state funding in Fiscal Year 2015, a 25 percent increase (or $270,184 more) from the previous year.
Barbara Mattei-Smith, Assistant Policy Director for Education for the governor's office, said timing, transportation, and career technical programs all play a role in explaining why a school district's base amount on the spreadsheet is lower than their current payment report.
"We based the estimates on the funding districts received in September, before the current year student counts were available and before the final adjustments were completed for FY2012 (which could impact some districts' guarantee for this year)," said Mattei-Smith in an email Feb. 7.
She added that transportation is "funded above the amount on the spreadsheets released; estimates are not currently available because data from[the Ohio Department of Education] to complete the estimate is not currently available."
Funding for career technical programs is "not in the base on the spreadsheet," added Mattei-Smith. That money will initially go to the "lead district" for a career technical program, but the funds will then be transferred to other districts.
"We are studying each category released… to determine the actual impact on our district," said Woodridge Superintendent Walter Davis. "If, in fact, we will see an increase of $270,184 as the simulation suggests, we are pleased. Due to the high valuation of property and other factors unique to the Woodridge district, we typically have not received the majority of our funds through state sources. Any increase in state funding is welcome news to us as we continually face the uncertainties associated with local property tax issues. We appreciate the ongoing support of our community and welcome any property tax relief that additional state funding might bring in the future."
In November 2012, a request for a five-year, 6.83-mill emergency operating levy was approved on its fourth go-round on the ballot.
"Cautiously optimistic" is how Dr. Todd M. Nichols, superintendent of the Cuyahoga Falls City School District, greeted Gov. Kasich's new school funding plan.
"It looks like we have a slight increase in state funding," Nichols said Feb. 7. "However, this is the first iteration (version) of the school funding piece that's part of the larger biennium budget and so it's not set in stone at this time. We would need to examine the details … but we're pleased that it appears we will not be receiving less funding."
David M. Hoskin, the treasurer/CFO of the Cuyahoga Falls City School District, did not respond to inquiries for comment by press time.
The district continues to head toward deficit, according to a five-year financial forecast prepared by Hoskin. While Hoskin anticipates a $3.537 million balance at the end of fiscal year 2013, a $1.941 million shortfall is predicted in fiscal year 2016, which increases to more than $5.3 million the next fiscal year.
Even if funding from the state stays as is proposed last week -- with a little less than a 10 percent increase in funding from the state -- Nichols said those operating dollars may help the district avoid deficit spending. "We're looking at deficit spending for the fourth consecutive year," the Cuyahoga Falls superintendent noted, "and the seventh out of the last 10 [years]."
"The funding from the state … would … help us limp through and make ends meet with regard to operating," according to Nichols.
Last month, the School Board approved placing a permanent improvement levy on the May primary ballot. If approved by voters, the 3-mill levy would generate $2.219 million per year for its five-year term, according to the Summit County Fiscal officer. Presently, the district must finance repairs and general upkeep, such as roofing and boilers, out of general operating funds. A permanent improvement levy could not be used to pay for salaries and benefits, supplies or purchase services. PI funds would be a separate pool of money from operating funds, the superintendent stated.