Kasich education plan
Dobbert-Meloy 'cautiously optimistic' about funding
Many educators are breathing a sigh of relief after Gov. John Kasich's announcement last week that state schools would see an increase in funding over the next two years.
Whitehall's superintendent isn't necessarily one of them, though.
In a meeting with state superintendents Jan. 31, Kasich told those in attendance that his $15.1 billion education plan would increase state funding to schools by 6 percent in the coming school year and 3.2 percent in the following year.
Not all districts know what this plan means for them specifically, but one promise was made -- that no district would receive less than it received this past year.
While other superintendents appeared overjoyed by the news, Whitehall City Schools Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy was a bit more wary.
"I am cautiously optimistic that this new plan will benefit Whitehall, but we really have just seen the bones of the new system," Dobbert-Meloy said following Kasich's address. "There are still a lot of gaps that need to be filled in before we can be certain as to how it will truly affect us."
District treasurer Steve McAfee agreed.
"We are intrigued and hopeful, based on the governor's comments regarding his school-funding plan," McAfee said.
Whitehall has been able to stay fiscally sound for nearly two decades because of its frugality, he said. Despite state increases built into his most recent forecast, however, McAfee said, the district's coffers are dwindling.
In January, McAfee gave Whitehall school board members a 30-minute overview of Whitehall's financial status. He congratulated the district and board members for staying off the ballot since 1995, when Whitehall most recently asked for an operating levy. He said the feat is quite remarkable.
Dobbert-Meloy said she doubts any other Ohio district could boast of such a record -- 18 years and no new levy.
Not all of the news was good, though. Federal funding has been cut, McAfee said. Moreover, he said, the $65,000 coming to Whitehall from state gambling profits likely will be offset by other state budget cuts.
According to McAfee's figures, the Whitehall City School District will end the current fiscal year June 30 with a general-fund balance of slightly more than $11.5 million. That will drop to about $8.6 million by the end of fiscal year 2014, he said.
"Needless to say, to find out that no district would receive less funding than what was received this year was a relief," Dobbert-Meloy said. "We know we can at least plan on that for budgeting purposes, which we are in the process of working on now."
McAfee said he had projected a 4.9-percent increase in state funding for the coming school year and a 3.9-percent increase for the following year.
Other Kasich promises might equate to more money for Whitehall, as well.
"The governor stated that in this plan, the idea is that resources will flow to the students who need it," Dobbert-Meloy said. "Specific services for kids will drive the funding."
Examples, she said, included districts housing students with disabilities, English as a Second Language students and economically disadvantaged students. Kasich said those districts -- Whitehall is one of them -- would receive additional funding for those students as they typically need additional services for academic success.
"We appreciate his interest in addressing unconstitutional disparities amongst school districts and providing more money for disabled students, English language learners and economically disadvantaged students," McAfee said.
Kasich also proposed creating an innovation fund that would provide money for districts that intend to implement new and innovative programs, as well as funding for full-day pre-kindergarten programs.
"So as you can see, there are things that sound beneficial," Dobbert-Meloy said. "We will have to wait (and see) how all of this plays out when there are dollar figures attached to them."