Riverside Local Schools’ estimated funding increases from the state allowed it to bring back art for students and add online learning options.
On the other side of the coin, Indian Lake Local Schools hopes to tread water and weather a potential funding decline due to a Tangible Personal Property Tax Reimbursement phase-out.
The 2016-17 biennium state budget increased the state per-pupil funding in the school funding formula from $5,800 in fiscal year 2015 to $5,900 in fiscal year 2016 and $6,000 in fiscal year 2017, according to an Ohio Department of Education press release. The budget also increases funding for areas such as special education, K-3 literacy and career-technical education.
A new component in the school funding formula rewards school districts based on their high school graduation rates and reading proficiency. It will also include funding for districts with a low capacity to raise revenue locally and supplemental transportation funds for low-density districts, the education department said.
No district will see its funding fall below fiscal year 2015 levels, according to the education department.
Riverside Treasurer Jennifer Blackford said the district is estimated to see an increase of up to 20 percent for the upcoming school year and an estimated 6.4 percent for the 2016-17 school year. That translates into $921,048 for the upcoming school year and $347,684 for the 2016-17 school year.
The largest portion of the increase comes from “capacity aid.” The district is considered a “low capacity” district because it raises less than the median amount of revenue from one-mill of local property taxes, Blackford said. Capacity aid for the first fiscal year will be 88 percent of the district’s increased funding, or about $815,494. During state budget discussions, the Ohio Senate moved the “capacity factor” outside of the cap allowed on increases in state funds.
“The increased dollars will allow Riverside to restore all educational services to the levels they were at prior to 2009, when the district was facing financial hardship,” she said. “We are also able to add teaching staff, expand curriculum, increase technology for students, and invest in the security and safety of our students through new buses, security measures, and improvements to district facilities.”
The district will add an elementary art teacher for students grades kindergarten to six, she said. The district will also add options for online learning in the junior and senior high schools. Starting with the upcoming school year, the district has converted a classroom to an online learning lab for expanded curriculum.
Blackford added most other components of the funding formula were not “significantly changed” from the 2014-15 school year. Special education funding actually decreased an estimated $16,203; K-3 Literacy increased an estimated $155, and transportation increased an estimated $3,008.
Indian Lake Local Schools, however, is facing flat – and potentially declining – funding for both years of the biennium, Treasurer Coleen Reprogle said. The law includes phase out of Tangible Personal Property Tax reimbursement to the district, which is estimated to be $322,491 loss in school year 2016-17, she said.
The district is estimated to receive additional funding for special education, K-3 Literacy, career tech, transportation and low-density categories, but “the increase does not fully offset” the losses from the transitional aid guarantee and the Tangible Personal Property Tax reimbursement.
The district will monitor the funding changes to determine if it needs to make cuts, she added.
“We are pleased that funding levels were held constant or increased for fiscal year 2016, and we are interested in seeing how the fine details of all the different facets of the budget bill that affect education will be addressed by the Ohio Department of Education,” she said. “We continue to be concerned about the massive amounts of money the state has diverted from public education to schools for profit over the last several years, and we hope this trend is reversed.”
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.