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TWINSBURG -- A measure moving through the Ohio House of Representatives could return money that has been confiscated from underperforming charter schools to the public districts from which the money was taken.
Twinsburg Board of Education President Mark Curtis was invited as a guest of Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-37) to a March 29 hearing before the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee regarding HB 87, currently being addressed in the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. Roegner is the sponsor of the bill.
"This isn't just an issue that affects us," Curtis said. "This effects all of the school districts in Ohio."
The bill, if passed, would give money that was confiscated by the state from charter and online schools, either due to lack of performance or incorrect enrollment numbers, back to the public school district from which the money was taken.
"This straightforward piece of legislation deals with public money returned to the state as a result of a finding for recovery issued pursuant to an audit of a charter school," Roegner said during her testimony. "I would like to thank Mark Curtis, the president of the Twinsburg City School Board, who brought this issue to my attention at the end of the last General Assembly."
The Twinsburg City School District in 2016 had $237,264.90 deducted from its budget and sent to charter schools, with $155,169 going to online schools, according to district treasurer Martin Aho.
Currently, the seized money goes into the state's general fund, Curtis said.
Curtis said he was encouraged by the committee's response to Roegner's presentation and that the bill seemed to have "strong bipartisan support."
Larger school districts such as Cleveland see even greater losses as money is funneled to charter schools, Curtis said. The Cleveland City School District loses around $10 million per year.
"HB 87, which has a robust list of bipartisan co-sponsors, continues in the spirit of ensuring that every single tax payer dollar is effectively deployed and in the unfortunate event of a 'finding for recovery' is appropriately returned to the traditional school district," Roegner said.
According to the legislation, "if the auditor of state issues a finding for recovery pursuant to an audit of a community school the department of education shall ensure that any public moneys returned to the state as a result of that finding for recovery are distributed ... to the state education aid of the school district or districts from which the funding was deducted."
"If the finding for recovery resulted from an audit of the enrollment records of the school, the funds shall be credited to the state education aid of the school district or districts from which the funding was deducted . If the finding for recovery resulted from an audit that is not described [above] the funds shall be redistributed to the school districts in which the students who were enrolled in the school at the time the finding for recovery is issued were entitled to attend school," according to HB 87.
Under HB 87, the amount distributed to each school district would be proportional to the district's share of the total enrollment in the charter or online school at the time the finding for recovery is issued.
Visit www.twinsburgbulletin.com for a video interview with Curtis on this issue.
Public forum on levy scheduled
The school district will have another forum regarding school funding and Issue 15 on April 20 at 6 p.m. at the high school.
The district has a 6.9-mill continuing property tax levy on the May 2 ballot. This forum will be the third the district has hosted.
School officials have said in previous interviews and meetings the levy is needed to make up for the loss of state revenue due to the phase-out of the Tangible Personal Property and Commercial Activities taxes. The levy, if passed, would generate $5.65 million for the district and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $241.50 per year.
Estimated at about $9.8 million by 2020, the loss in revenue from the taxes would (by 2020) represent about 23 percent of the district's current $42.68 million budget, said Aho.
Right now, as it's being phased out, the tax revenue makes up about $4.6 million of the district's budget. According to the district's 5-year financial forecast, without new money, the district will be deficit-spending by 2020 by about $4 million.