By Sue Botos
Although school officials throughout the state are still digesting the contents of Gov. John Kasich’s new school financial plan, wealthier districts like Rocky River already know nothing will be added to their plate.
During his comments to the school board at a recent committee session, Treasurer Greg Markus stated that while the numbers and complicated formulas presented by Kasich in early February are still in the preliminary stages, it was stated that no funds will be taken away from districts. But in the case of Rocky River, no additional funding is expected.
“Obviously, we’re not going to see an increase,” said Marcus of the $729,000 now realized from the state. Of that portion, Markus said $189,000 is planned to be earmarked as the “guarantee fund,” which according to the new plan is to be used for innovation and student achievement programs. That’s the portion, according to Markus, that could be in jeopardy down the road.
“It’s hard to say, but as far as just apples to apples, right now the guarantee portion of the $729,000, that’s the part you hear about going away,” he stated.
Coincidentally, Markus noted that $186,000 is expected to be the district’s share this year from funds generated by the Horseshoe Casino. He reported that $54,000 or about $20 per student was realized for 2012. “This was a short year and the other casinos will come on line shortly,” he said, referring to those in Toledo, Columbus and the newest casino in Cincinnati.
While not making up for $825,000 in state cuts over the past two years, Superintendent Michael Shoaf said that the casino money will give the district some relief. “We’re certainly looking to see if we can use the money for technology and curriculum purchases,” Shoaf told West Life.
Markus noted that the district’s “property value per student” is above the state aid limit of $250,000. Under the new plan, the state will make up the difference to districts with a lower number. “We come up to about $275,000. Their cutoff is $250,000. We’re obviously over that, so we get zero,” Markus noted.
Looking over the spreadsheet detailing the amount of funding districts are supposed to receive from the state, Markus said there are a number of unanswered questions. He pointed out that the Orange district, with a property value per student of over $400,000, stood to gain some funds. “We’re still trying to figure that out,” he said.
Board member Scott Swartz suggested that Orange may have more special needs students. As part of the new funding plan, the pool of money available to help pay for disabled students’ care has been increased from $10 million to $100 million.
“It’s still a lot of theory now, but at least you can kind of see the numbers here,” said Markus. He added that while the new funding proposal aims to close the gap between wealthier and poorer districts, it will not remove the burden of passing levies. “That’s still the world we live in,” he stated.