Pickerington Times-Sun

More than $200,000

District to receive first funds from state's casinos

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The Pickerington Local School District Jan. 31 will receive more than $200,000 in its first payout from the state's new casino industry, but school officials cautioned against viewing the influx of cash as a windfall.

The district will receive $212,259.67 as its first distribution of tax revenue from three of the four voter-approved Ohio casinos, according to district Treasurer Dan Griscom.

Per state law, Ohio's public and charter schools will receive $20.93 per pupil in casino-tax revenue twice per year.

The revenue comes as a result of Ohio voters, who in November 2009 approved a Constitutional amendment to casinos to be built in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo.

The initial disbursements are expected to be lower than future payouts because the Hollywood Casino in Columbus didn't open until last October, and Cincinnati's facility is slated to open until March.

Griscom said the district hasn't earmarked a purpose for the casino funds, and added it's a relatively small infusion compared to the district's approximately $92-million operating budget.

"While we appreciate the casino revenues, this amount does not have a large impact on our revenue stream," Griscom said.

"To put it in perspective, this $212,259 is about two-tenths of 1 percent of our operating revenue," he said.

"The biggest unknown in terms of the long-term net impact of casino revenues is what the new state funding formula will look like, beginning (fiscal year) 2014," Griscom said.

"The governor is expected to unveil his school funding proposal the first week of February.

"We do not know if we will see an increase or a decrease in state funding, or if it will remain flat," he said.

"We also do not know if the casino revenue will be in addition to future state funding, or if it will just replace a portion of the state funding we would already receive, which would result in no net increase to the district," Griscom said.

During a Jan. 14 budget hearing Pickerington Board of Education members also cautioned against viewing casino-tax revenues as a solution to ongoing school-funding challenges.

Board Member Lisa Reade noted state legislators historically have reduced funds allocated to districts coming from the state's general operating fund or state education foundation fund because schools receive tax revenues from the Ohio Lottery.

"We obviously don't think (casino revenues) are a pot of free money," Reade said.

Board Member Lori Sanders concurred, saying, "In the past, every $1 we received from the state lottery, we lost $1.03 from the state foundation."

Other matters

In other news, the board said it expects to discuss the 2013-14 school calendar at its next meeting, tentatively scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 28 in the District Office, 90 East St.

During an initial discussion of the calendar last Monday, board members and officials from the district's Teaching and Learning Department examined how the traditional school schedule might be changed to allow for new teacher and student evaluations being mandated by the state.

Preliminary proposals call for the 2013-14 school year to start Aug. 19, and district officials are trying to determine when holiday and semester breaks will be scheduled, as well as how teachers will develop standards for measuring students' learning growth over the course of a semester or school year.

The board also:

* Elected Cathy Olshefski to serve as its president for 2013, and Clay Lopez as vice president.

* Approved additional monthly pay for Director of Special Education Bob Blackburn, who last month was appointed interim-assistant superintendent for the district after Jim Sotlar left the post to become superintendent in the Canal Winchester Local School District.

In addition to Blackburn's annual salary of $106,497, he will receive $1,250 a month to serve as interim-assistant superintendent.

* Appointed Vince Utterback to serve as the district's interim treasurer, effective Feb. 1. Utterback will replace Treasurer Dan Griscom, who is retiring from the district.

No additional compensation for Utterback was discussed on Monday. He currently receives an annual salary of $99,073 to serve as the district's business manager.

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