LIMA — While a number of school districts will see increases in student aid under the new state budget, officials warn that it doesn’t make up for the cuts taken in the past.
“When they say they are increasing funding for education, they are increasing after it was cut by billions when Gov. [John] Kasich came into office,” Kalida schools Superintendent Don Horstman said.
“I am not blaming him for making the cuts. It had to be done,” he added. “But when you’re not even getting us back to where we were in 2010-11 and patting everyone on the back and saying look how much more money we are giving you, no you are not.”
Horstman has a lot more to complain about than some: His district is one of several to see no increases in either year of the budget, according to preliminary estimates. School districts expect to get more details later in the week.
Only Columbus Grove schools will see an increase in Putnam County (3 percent the first year and 0.77 percent the next year). The rest of the county joins Spencerville in Allen County, New Bremen and New Knoxville in Auglaize County, Hardin Northern, Ridgemont and Upper Scioto Valley in Hardin County, and Crestview and Lincolnview in Van Wert County to see no increases in the budget.
No new money, along with expanded vouchers and the elimination of the property tax rollback makes for a disastrous budget in Horstman’s eyes.
“In my opinion, any member of the Assembly who voted for this and calls themselves a friend to public education should be ashamed of themselves,” he said.
The Senate version of the budget gives more districts an increase than what was originally proposed by Kasich. Lima schools had expected to get about a $200,000 increase early on in the process, but will end up getting an additional $2 million in the first year and $3.6 million the second year.
Treasurer Ryan Stechschulte is waiting for more details before marking the $2 million down in his budget.
“The concern is what restrictions they will have on it,” he said. “In recent history any increases usually had strings attached.”
The budget isn’t going to help districts going on the ballot for new money in November and beyond. It eliminates a 12.5 percent property-tax subsidy that the state had been paying on levies imposed by school districts, libraries and other public entities. Now the 12.5 percent will fall on taxpayers.
“I think it will cause districts to look at maybe lowering the amount they are asking for,” Stechschulte said.
The budget also includes an expansion of vouchers, which Horstman said is essentially state Rep. Matt Huffman’s voucher bill “by hook and by crook.” His bill died last year. Officials worry of money leaving public schools to go to privates not held to the same standards.
“It just means public money being funneled to private education who do not have to follow the same guidelines that public education does,” Stechschulte said.
Educational Service Centers also take a hit, which directly impacts districts using their services. Horstman said district are being forced to pay more to the service centers.
“They talk about all the extra money they are giving us, but we all have bills to pay now to provide current services to the ESC,” he said. “We [Putnam County schools] were supposedly the model for proficiency because we did such a good job of shared services. The ESC is doing that job for us and the legislature pulls the rug out from under us.”