Hilliard Northwest News

Officials unsure how state budget will affect Hilliard

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While Hilliard City Schools Superintendent Dale McVey and Treasurer Brian Wilson said they are pleased Gov. John Kasich's biennial budget contains no additional cuts in public school funding, it is too early to determine how it will affect individual districts.

"There are still too many questions regarding specific budget components and other pieces of legislation to see how this will ultimately impact Hilliard City Schools' bottom line," McVey said.

McVey heard Kasich describe the biennial budget Jan. 31 at the Polaris Hilton hotel.

Only district superintendents were invited to the meeting, where Kasich shared not only his view on public school funding, but also shared insight into what Hilliard officials consider a change in philosophy concerning public education, including how minimum classroom time is calculated, and how districts with lower than average property values are made more equal to affluent districts.

While some superintendents might have expected Kasich to announce cuts, McVey said he arrived at the Polaris Hilton in "an uncertain" mindset.

"I was there with an air of uncertainty while waiting for the outcome," he said.

While the governor's two-year budget proposes state funding increases of 6 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively, how that is individually applied has not been enumerated.

McVey and Wilson said they await the legislative process to reveal the answer.

"We will take a step back now," McVey said. "We're just at the start of the legislative process, not the end of it."

Two years ago, the governor's first biennial budget underwent numerous amendments in the Ohio House and Senate, leaving district treasurers and superintendents throughout Ohio wondering until the last minute how much financial assistance they would receive.

"In the short term, we're pleased with what's been presented, but we're also concerned with where we are in June," McVey said.

The new biennial budget begins July 1, 2013.

Wilson said the district must have "simulations" to gauge the budget's impact on Hilliard schools. The simulations could be received as early as the end of this week.

"It's just too early in the process to tell, but we're happy to at least be getting what we did last year," Wilson said.

Likewise, Wilson said, it is too early to measure the financial impact of other tenets of the governor's view of education, including allowing schools to base minimum classroom instruction on the number of hours rather than days per year, a new voucher program and a school-funding plan that ensures that the first 20 mills levied by each individual district will generate an amount equal to $250,000 in property value, achieved with state funding.

Meanwhile, the district will continue to ensure its operation at the most efficient level possible, Wilson said.

"It's a 365-day, 24-7 effort," Wilson said of controlling the expenses side of the district's ledger.

District officials also are cognizant that even an increase in funding must be viewed through the lens of expenses.

"Today, Hilliard schools receive virtually the same amount of financial aid as it did in 2006, but enrollment has increased by approximately 1,000 students," McVey said. "Our schools and our community have endured repeated deep cuts to school funding and we will be watching the entire budgeting process closely until it is finalized in June."

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