Bexley News

School funding

Bexley officials anticipate little change

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Bexley City Schools officials are expecting little change in state funding over the next few years under the governor's new funding plan.

District Treasurer Chris Essman dove into the numbers with school board members at the district's regular monthly meeting Feb. 12, reminding them that numerous changes will likely happen before a final plan is passed by the state legislature.

But the good news will likely go sour by fiscal year 2016 when state guarantees are expected to disappear, he said.

"State funding is going to be an interesting issue for the next four to five months," he said, summarizing the situation.

Essman said Bexley is expected to receive about $3.85 million in funding from the state in FY 2013 -- about $800,000 less than in FY 2002, when state funding was at an all-time high.

He expects state dollars to drop to about $3.8 million in FY 2014 and 2015.

But by FY 2016, levels are expected to fall drastically to slightly more than $2 million when the state guarantee is expected to go away.

The state's funding guarantee is a promise to districts on the part of the state that they'll receive a minimum amount of state funding no matter how many students they have enrolled.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has indicated he hopes to drop the guarantee in the next biennial budget.

Kasich's current budget for schools includes $874 million in guaranteed funding.

Essman also quoted information from the state indicating that while some districts such as Bexley, Pickerington and Upper Arlington will see no change in state funding next year, other districts such as Olentangy and New Albany are slated to see 331 percent and 181 percent increases, respectively.

Essman said he did not understand the disparity and again cautioned that the funding plan will likely undergo several revisions before its final approval by the state legislature.

In other business, Superintendent Mike Johnson released enrollment projections for the 2013-14 school year. Johnson told board members that enrollment numbers will likely decrease by only 38 students next year, leaving teacher levels unchanged.

Districtwide, Johnson expects a decrease of two students at the kindergarten level, 34 in first grade, nine in fourth grade, 12 in fifth grade, four in sixth grade, six at the middle school and just one at the high school level.

Increases are expected only in the district's second grade, with a jump of 22 students, and in third grade, with a jump of eight students.

Johnson said projections have been very close to actual enrollment numbers in recent years and he expects the same next year.

Johnson also addressed developmental assets related to Bexley youth, as reflected in a 2009 student survey.

Developmental assets are the relationships and personal qualities that young people need to avoid risky behavior in today's society. National studies show that the more assets young people have, the less likely they are to engage in a wide variety of high-risk behaviors such as alcohol and drug use or violence.

"I'm really proud of our high school kids overall," said Johnson. "I think it is these kids who will set the tone. If they set the standard themselves, it will mean so much more (to the rest of the student body)."

But despite an overall positive report, Johnson did find several areas of concern.

The 2009 survey questioned fourth- through seventh-graders as well as ninth- and 11th-graders about a number of social and emotional topics, giving Johnson and other staff members an idea of where assets are weak in the district's student population and where they are strong. It also provided a look at gender differences and the groundwork for future decision-making and planning.

On the heels of the discussion last week, board members gave their collective nod of approval to a job description for the new student and community support specialist position. Once hired, the new specialist would oversee the district's effort to focus on non-academic barriers to success for local students, building on those developmental assets that help students avoid risky behaviors.

In December, board members asked Johnson to quantify issues that exist before hiring for the position.

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