Twinsburg — School officials are hoping that the apparent oasis in state funding to be released in the next two years under the governor’s proposal is not a mirage.
The Twinsburg School District is set to receive more than $5.46 million in 2014 under Gov. John Kasich’s Achievement Everywhere plan, a 104 percent jump from the $2.8 million Twinsburg is to receive in state basic aid in 2013, according to information released Feb. 5 by the governor’s office. Twinsburg’s 104 percent increase under the governor’s plan is second in Summit County to Woodridge School District’s 129 percent jump, and fifth in the state.
But Twinsburg officials are not necessarily buying the numbers in the plan, which still requires passage in the Ohio House and Senate.
“I’m not celebrating it because I don’t think it’s real,” superintendent Kathryn Powers said Feb. 6. “I think ‘perplexed’ is the word.”
According to Jim Lynch, with the Ohio Office of Budget Management, Achievement Everywhere guarantees every school district receive core opportunity aid (Twinsburg’s is $5.46 million), regardless of the growth in state aid this could cause.
Twinsburg is one such “limited” district, Lynch explained, and saw the significant increase between 2013 and 2014 for that reason.
“For these limited districts, who have been limited in the growth of their state aid in recent years without regard to increases in student enrollment or changing tax bases, you will see increases above 25 percent,” Lynch said. “Twinsburg is one of the districts that see an increase higher than 25 percent in order to ensure they receive the core opportunity level of funding.”
Twinsburg schools’ treasurer Martin Aho said that he, also, is trying to wrap his arms around the proposal, since the governor’s plan was touted as bending toward the poorer districts in the state — and Olentangy School District, a wealthy district just north of Columbus, received a 332 percent hike ($14.7 million more) in 2014 in the proposal.
And Powers points out that the Cleveland Municipal School District, not considered a wealthy district, would not receive any increase in 2014 under the governor’s plan.
“I just have more questions about this than anything,” she said.
“We need some guidance with these numbers,” Aho said. “How are they going to fill the bucket with revenue if they’re cutting revenue?”
Of particular concern to Twinsburg school officials was the apparent elimination of the guaranteed funds in the governor’s plan, which Powers had tallied at about $524,256, using Ohio Department of Education information.
“We don’t know at this point if we lost funds [in the guaranteed funds] and gained funds elsewhere, if we’re simply even right now or what,” Aho said. “If we can’t understand this, and we live and breathe this stuff, I don’t know how anyone else is expected to understand.”
The governor’s plan also shows that Twinsburg will be back down to the limit of a 25 percent increase in state funding in 2015, or about $1.37 million more than the $5.46 million to be doled out in 2014, but also with no guaranteed money.
“We were told [at the Jan. 31 press conference with the governor] that he wouldn’t be doing anything with the guaranteed money,” Powers said.
The governor said Jan. 31 that his plan — paid for with $15.1 billion in state general fund revenue and lottery money — provides increased funding for poorer school districts statewide, through a new formula that takes into account property values and income levels. The formula is based on what a 20-mill levy would generate in a district with property valuations of $250,000 per student.
With 4,302 students counted by the governor’s plan for the local district, Aho said that Twinsburg has an overall property valuation of $762 million, or a 3-year, $186,476 per pupil valuation.
Twinsburg will continue to receive state funds in 2014 from other avenues, according to Kasich’s plan, including money for disabled students ($738,024), gifted students ($215,112) and those learning the English language ($40,184).
Twinsburg received $7 million in tangible personal property tax funds from the state in 2012, about 18 percent of the district’s $43.1 million budget last year. Less is expected this year, and the TPP is set to be phased out by 2014. In 2006, the tangible personal property tax comprised about $9.8 million, or about 25 percent, of the district’s $40 million budget.
While the TPP is drying up, Twinsburg since the late 1990s has hovered around the $2 million to $3 million mark in basic state aid, or about 11 percent of its budget in 2012, according to the Twinsburg treasurer’s office.
More than 60 percent of the district’s revenue came from local real estate taxes in 2012.
Voters in the Twinsburg School District passed a 4.9-mill, $3.8 million operations levy last fall, which, along with $3.2 million in cuts, layoffs and pay-to-participate fees implemented last year, helped bridge a $7 million budget gap for the district as the state funds dwindled.
The schools also have a 6.9-mill, $4.4 million levy first passed in 1993 up for renewal this May.
The district has a current cash balance of $21.9 million, according to Aho.