Licking County News

School treasurers wary of funding estimates

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Both the Licking Heights and Southwest Licking school districts are forecasted to receive additional funding from Gov. John Kasich's plan to infuse Ohio schools with $1.2 billion in additional income over the next two fiscal years.

However, the treasurers for both districts question whether they will receive what the state projects.

"The estimates shown are difficult to interpret due to a lack of information about how these figures were reached," said Licking Heights Treasurer Jennifer Vanover.

She said the preliminary estimates show total state funding for Licking Heights at $8,624,480, which is a $1,724,896 increase over previous funding.

"Unfortunately, I'm not able to come up with the information they are using to make these calculations," she said. "Until I get a formula that shows where the starting figures were obtained and a calculation used, I really can't offer a comment on the validity of the numbers."

While additional revenue would help the cash-strapped district, Vanover said, the revenue may influence voters to believe that the district does not need the 8.92-mill, 10-year emergency levy that is on the May ballot.

If approved, the emergency levy would raise $4.3 million per year and cost about $272 annually per $100,000 of assessed property valuation.

The same levy request failed in November by a count of 2,776 votes against it to 1,693 in favor. As a result, the district cut $2.8 million from its operating budget, including laying off scores of teachers and other employees and eliminating high school bus transportation.

In reality, Vanover said, the additional revenue only would help contribute to the payment of debt service accrued should the May levy be approved. If it is approved, district officials plan to take out a loan against the forthcoming revenue to restore teachers and bus transportation as quickly as possible.

"It's certainly an amount that got my attention," said board member Brian Bagley of the estimated state funding increase. "We more than welcome the additional funding."

However, he said, "Bottom line, this funding only becomes exciting if the May levy passes. Should the levy fail, the additional funding will be nice, but the district will remain in an extremely difficult position."

Southwest Licking Treasurer Richard Jones said his district is estimated to receive $10,347,500, which is a significant increase from $318,362 last year.

"If it comes through, we will be very happy," Jones said. "But I'm not getting my hopes up. I'm not counting on the money until the governor signs it. Something's not adding up."

Jones said the district is in the process of slashing $1 million from its budget to curb spending, and he is unsure how the state's estimates address the district's $900,000 transportation budget and nearly $1 million that could be lost through Ohio's school voucher program.

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