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Gain some, lose some: Twinsburg Schools receive modest boost in state budget

By APRIl HELMS Reporter Published: February 14, 2017 12:00 AM
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TWINSBURG -- Gov. John Kasich's proposed biennial budget would give the Twinsburg City School District a modest increase to its budget over last year, but not enough to offset the losses from other sources, including the tangible personal property tax, according to Twinsburg school officials.

District Treasurer Martin Aho said that under the budget proposal, released in late January by Kasich, Twinsburg would receive an additional $261,000 in the upcoming school year. However, the district is set to lose about $493,000 in 2017 as the state continues to phase out the tangible property tax. The tangible property tax will be completely phased out by 2023, causing a loss of about $9.8 million to the district since 2004.

"They are giving it to you with one hand ... but taking away nearly half with the other," Aho said. "The main point is we're still losing money."

Superintendent Kathryn Powers said that at first glance it looks like the district will benefit from the proposed biennial state budget, but "we are still short" due to the loss of the TPP.

"It's almost like a shell game," Powers said. "We are being given money on one hand, but we are having money taken away in another way."

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The district's revenues have been flat for the past decade. In 2016, expenditures were $42.7 million. General property taxes accounted for $27.6 million of the district's budget. Total revenues in 2016 were $42.8 million, the same as in 2007.

Twinsburg's enrollment for the 2016-17 year as of Feb. 10 was 4,124 students, Powers said. Enrollment numbers tend to fluctuate throughout the year, though the current count is up slightly from end-of-year enrollment in 2015-16, which was 4,110.

Tim Keen, director of Ohio's Office of Budget and Management that released the statewide school district spreadsheets Feb. 3, said schools that have lost students would receive less money.

"I think we have the best opportunity we have had in a long time to get this guarantee proposal adopted into law. I think we have targeted it and crafted it in such a way that it just makes sense. If you lost an appreciable number of students, why should we continue to pay you the same amount of money that we previously did?"

Keen offered the comments during an afternoon question-and-answer session with Statehouse reporters Feb. 3, a few days after Kasich rolled out his proposed spending plan for the next two fiscal years.

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OBM released spreadsheets projecting the funding levels for the state's 600-plus school districts. The numbers aren't set in stone -- they're estimates used as part of the budget process, with actual totals determined later after taking into account local valuations, student enrollment and other factors.

The governor said earlier this week that he is proposing a $200 million increase in funding for primary and secondary schools over the biennium. But that doesn't mean all districts will receive more money next year than they did during the current school year.

Additionally, the governor has proposed lowering the guarantee base districts receive if schools lost more than 5 percent of their student population.

Those districts that have grown or lost up to 5 percent would be guaranteed the same funding total they are receiving this fiscal year. Those that have lost more than 5 percent would see that guarantee drop to, at most, 95 percent of the current year total.

"Just go out on the street and take a poll of people," Keen said. "This district lost 17 percent of its kids, should we pay it the same amount of money that we did last year? Where else in the world would that happen but in school funding? What would the man on the street say? I think that's the test the members of the general assembly ought to use to judge."

He added, "If there are fewer kids, why are we paying the same amount of money to education them?"

Keen also said, for many districts projected to see decreases in the formula funding, the totals aren't that large.

Of the 346 districts in that category, 187 would see a decrease of less than $100,000, he said, adding that 71 of those would see a reduction of less than $5,000.

"A lot of these numbers are very small," he said.

Editor's note: Capital Bureau Chief Marc Kovac contributed to this story.


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