Twinsburg School District hosts Feb. 27 open forum on state funding plan

by Andrew Schunk | Editor Published:

Twinsburg -- The Board of Education will host a public meeting Feb. 27 at R.B. Chamberlin Middle School to discuss the apparent ambiguities of the governor's Achievement Everywhere school funding plan -- and to seek input on whether to leave a 6.9-mill operations levy on the spring ballot.

The 7 p.m. meeting in the school cafeteria will be led by Board of Education members and school officials, including superintendent Kathryn Powers.

"That's the big issue, whether we should move forward with the levy or hold off," Board of Education member Steve Shebeck said Feb. 21. "We're trying to make sense of what we're going to end up with from the state ... We need to offer a realism to the community that this is not a windfall."

Under Kasich's plan, the Twinsburg School District is set to receive more than $5.46 million in 2014, 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 school officials remain ambivalent about the plan -- and keenly aware that making sense of it is a critical to deciding whether to keep the operations levy on the May 7 ballot.

"I understand that this is an important topic for the school district, given the fact that the Board at this point has passed two resolutions for a ballot issue, which is the renewal levy," Powers said at the Feb. 20 Board of Education meeting. "There has been lots of conversation going on, not only in our school district, but across the state about whether or not there is some relief for the local taxpayers based upon what the [governor's] proposal is telling us."

Because the plan still requires approval in the Ohio House and Senate, school officials remain skeptical that the initial numbers will hold true.

"I'll be shocked," Shebeck said. "In my opinion, the state put the cart before the horse, and [the governor's plan] leaves us with more questions than answers."

"I'm not celebrating it because I don't think it's real," Powers said Feb. 6. "I think 'perplexed' is the word."

Shebeck added that the Board would make a final decision by mid-March about whether to keep the $4.4 million, 6.9-mill levy on the May 7 ballot. The levy that was first passed in 1993 is being placed on the ballot this time with continuing rather than renewal status, meaning the levy would be permanent.

"The levy is an integral part of our funding," Shebeck said. "But people are wondering why we're asking for money."

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. As well, ODE documents show the district was to receive $3.8 million this year, and the Achievement Everywhere plan has Twinsburg receiving $2.7 million in 2013. Two line items appear to be missing from the governor's plan, Powers said, for transportation and career technical education -- money that adds up to about $1.15 million, or the difference between the ODE and Achievement Everywhere numbers.

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.

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.

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 evaporating, 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.

Cash reserves in Twinsburg sit at $21.9 million, Twinsburg schools' treasure Martin Aho said.

Editor's Note: Reporter Conner Howard contributed to this report.

Email: aschunk@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9424

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