Although Westerville City Schools will see approximately $2.8 million in reductions to its share of state funding in fiscal 2020 as a result of cuts enacted related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, federal aid and reduced district expenditures are expected to offset the loss.
Treasurer Nicole Marshall said district officials are disappointed that education funding is part of the state's budget reductions, especially with the commitment the state has made over the past several years to increase funding to schools and given that schools continue to provide distance learning and support to students.
Marshall said district officials realize K-12 education is one of the largest line items in the state's budget, and with the drastic decreases in sales taxes and delaying income taxes, the state had to make some very tough decisions.
"Fortunately, the federal government passed the (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, which will provide approximately $2 million in additional funding for the district," she said. "As the district continues to find ways to reduce costs to our local taxpayers, the district plans to use this funding to help offset decreases in state funding."
Gov. Mike DeWine on May 5 announced that basic state aid for K-12 schools would take a $300 million hit as part of the $775 million in state budget cuts being enacted in response to the coronavirus affecting state tax collections.
Fiscal 2020 ends June 30, and the state budget is mandated to be balanced each year.
Whereas state revenues were ahead of estimates by more than $200 million at the end of February and prior to the pandemic, revenues were below budgeted estimates by $776.9 million at the end of April.
In addition to the $300 million reduction in K-12, other funding cuts include Medicaid, $210 million; other education budget-line items, $55 million; higher education, $110 million; and all other agencies, $100 million.
DeWine said in a news release that instituting the cuts now would provide the most stability moving forward.
"I am greatly concerned about the cuts we must make in education," he said. "We have an obligation to our schools to give them as much predictability as we can, but if we don't make these cuts now, future cuts would be more dramatic."
Marshall said the state put out a spreadsheet to show what each district's reduction would be.
"It appears they used a weighted formula to determine the amount of the cuts for each district, but they have not provided specific details for how they arrived at those amounts," she said.
Because Westerville school buildings have been closed to students in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Marshall said, the district should see reduced expenses.
"These reductions include overtime for staff, along with savings in fuel and utilities," she said. "With the federal funding and reduced expenses, we feel as though we are able to absorb this reduction in state funding with little impact to our district at this time."
Marshall said the district anticipates seeing additional cuts from the state and will continue to monitor updates to plan accordingly.