Olentangy Valley News

Superintendent's notebook

I'll keep up fight for state dollars

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In 2005, Olentangy was a district with 9,700 students and 12 buildings that received about $7 million in state funding.

Fast-forward eight years, 8,000 additional students and 11 additional buildings -- and Olentangy is still receiving about $7 million in state basic aid.

In Olentangy, we pride ourselves on finding efficient ways to provide a high-quality education. Our achievement results continue to be among the best in the state, while our per-pupil cost is one of the lowest in the region. But there is no denying the fact that a school district of 23 buildings and 17,500 students costs significantly more to run than a district of 12 buildings and 9,700 students. The only way our community has been able to cover these additional costs is to "shoulder the burden" entirely at the local level -- in the form of higher property taxes. Since 1999, our residents have passed eight bond issues and four operating levies to cover the costs of our growth.

In February, it looked like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. Gov. John Kasich proposed a school-funding formula that recognized enrollment growth and had the potential to ease the burden on Olentangy taxpayers as the district continues to grow. But the House ended up passing its own measure, which essentially wiped out the proposed funding increase and made that light at the end of the tunnel seem dim as the plan moves on to the Senate.

School funding is an extremely complex topic. I don't envy the lawmakers who have to create these plans, but I do think it is time they address this obvious inequity. After all, according to fiscal year 2011 data, Olentangy receives $360 per student from the state. Across Ohio, the average is about nine times that amount: $3,200. Many Ohio school districts receive an average of about 75 percent of what their residents pay in state income tax. Olentangy receives less than 5 percent of what our community sends to the state. In essence, our community's funds are being used to support other school districts even though the dollars are desperately needed right here to cover the cost of our enrollment growth.

I can't promise that my pleas to legislators will be heard, but I can promise that I will continue to try. I've been in constant contact with our local lawmakers. I also testified before the House Finance and Appropriations Committee and plan to provide similar testimony for the Senate. I hope they will realize this isn't just a school-district issue; it's an issue for every voter in our large community. No other community in the state is growing like Olentangy, and after 10 years of ignoring it from the funding perspective, it's time for our lawmakers to find a way to ease the burden on Olentangy taxpayers. We need your help!

If you'd like to learn more about this issue and how you can reach out to lawmakers, visit our website, olentangy. k12.oh.us.

Wade Lucas is superintendent of the Olentangy Local School District.

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