Innovation Ohio Says Many Schools Not Seeing Increases In State Budget

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In a news release last week, State Senator Tim Schaffer, R–Lancaster, announced Ohio schools will see a boost of over $700 million in funding over the next two years as part of the state budget plan, adding it “is the largest increase for Ohio schools in over a decade.”

Steve Dyer of Innovation Ohio, a Columbus-based left-leaning think tank, says that’s hardly the whole story. It is an increase, he said, but it comes after massive cuts from three years ago.

“It’s like if they cut off both your legs and gave you one back and said ‘you should be grateful,’” said Dyer, education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio.

According to Dyer, a former Democratic state representative and the chief legislative architect for Ohio’s evidence-base model of school funding, 71 percent of Ohio’s school districts will receive less under the new budget than they received in the 2010-2011 budget.

For Athens County, the projected decreases are as follows:

Athens City Schools — $3,203,121

Federal Hocking Local Schools — $1,038,869

Alexander Local Schools — $818,089

Trimble Local Schools and Nelsonville-York City Schools are expected to see increases — $1,529,886 and $94,029, respectively.

“The other thing that’s crazy, the 2010-2011 budget had $12 billion fewer dollars than this one,” Dyer said. “It had fewer dollars, but $500 million more for schools. This idea that this is a historic increase doesn’t hold water for anyone being honest with the numbers.”

Dyer added that those facts don’t consider the “biggest future problem.” The budget signed by Gov. John Kasich on Sunday eliminates a 12.5 percent property-tax subsidy the state had been paying on new levies.

Previously, certain homeowners paid only 87.5 percent on property taxes, and the state picked up the rest. That has since changed, at least for new levies from schools, libraries and other entities as early as November.

Trimble Local Schools is in the process of putting a new five-year, 5-mill permanent improvement levy on the November ballot. Before the tax change, a property owner with a home valued at $75,000 would have paid $118.13, according to Cindy Rhonemus, the school’s treasurer.

With the tax change, a property owner would pay $131.25. Rhonemus added that because the reduction doesn’t apply to all homeowners, she doesn’t factor in the reduction in her literature provided to residence. The reduction only applies to owner-occupied homes.

“I didn’t factor it in because not everyone gets the reduction,” Rhonemus said. “In our town meetings, I did state that mine was only an estimate and that tax reduction factors could apply to some homeowners. So I gave worst-case scenario.”

Dyer said the news of the elimination may make it more difficult for some districts to pass new levies.