SIDNEY — Area superintendents are taking a wait and see approach with the proposed Ohio budget and how it will impact school districts across the state.
Gov. John Kasich introduced the budget Monday. The proposed budget calls for a 17 percent income tax cut and a two-year college tuition freeze. It also calls for modest additional spending for K-12 schools, higher education and prisons. It has a 1 percent increase in primary and secondary education funding, which represents record spending despite the modest percentage, Kasich said.
While a 1 percent increase is appropriated in the budget, schools which have lost more than 5 percent of its student population would see a cut in money from the state. The percentage of student loss covers a period from 2011 to 2016.
“Our representatives have been very up front about the possibility of little to no increase this year in the governor’s budget. We have a morning meeting with them about every three months so they have been warning us since before the new year. I do think we should reserve comment until it is finalized,” said Bill Reichert, Jackson Center Local Schools superintendent.
The budget also proposes three nonvoting people be appointed to each board of education in the state. The proposal says the three should represent the business sector.
“My thought is that the governor’s idea of adding board members is not needed. Most school districts have other advisers already in place or don’t have the population that would support more board members. If districts are given the choice, some may choose to go that way, but to make it a mandate is completely impractical for many districts across the state,” said Reichert.
Other superintendents are also waiting to see what the final budget holds for their school district.
“The budget proposal by Gov. Kasich is just that, a proposal,” said Dan Holland, Fort Loramie Schools superintendent. “I am reserving my opinion on the overall budget until it has a chance to go through the committees and the entire assembly. Typically the budget bill changes from its original version many, many times.
“I will be contacting our representatives in Columbus to voice the opinion that enough burden has been already placed on the local tax payers of our community. I will also be advocating for more local control and less unfunded mandates that are a strain on resources and unnecessary in the effective function of our school system,” said Holland.
Jeff McPheron, Botkins Local Schools superintendent, doesn’t think the Botkins Board of Education needs three nonvoting members added.
“Our board of education is elected locally by our community and they do an incredible job representing the different interests of Botkins. Four of my five members have a business and management background. I feel the proposal by the governor is not needed in our school district,” said McPheron.
McPheron said they are also waiting to see what the final budget looks like when it’s approved before making contact. McPheron is a member of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators legislative committee.
“It is a great opportunity to let our small rural school’s voice be heard,” said McPheron.
Hardin-Houston Local Schools Superintendent Larry Claypool also disagrees with the proposal concerning the three non-voting board members.
“I am opposed to adding three non-voting business people to the BOE. Many of our school boards already have quality businessmen and business women actively engaged and voting in their district’s decisions,” said Claypool.
Russia Local Schools Superintendent Steve Rose said he’s like to see more than a 1 percent increase in funding for education.
“As the superintendent of Russia Local School of course I would like to see a more substantial increase in school funding,” said Rose. “A 1 percent raise over two years will not cover the ever growing cost of education but hopefully before the budget is finalized this summer the percentage will grow to be more in line with inflation. I will wait until I see how the new budget directly affects the district before contacting local representatives.
“I understand the reason behind Gov. Kasich’s proposal to add three nonvoting members to the local boards of education,” Rose continued. “I feel this requirement is definitely not essential in districts like Russia. In a small community I feel that we have good communication between the school district and the businesses within the community. The Russia Board of Education already contains representatives from the business community which in my opinion makes this mandate redundant and unnecessary.”
Dr. Nancy Luce, superintendent for Upper Valley Career Center, Piqua, said she hasn’t received any specific information on how much funding the center will receive from the proposed budget. The proposal to add three nonvoting members to the board would not apply to the career center, she said.
Mary Smith, superintendent of Christian Academy Schools, Sidney, had no comment on the proposed budget. Versailles School District Superintendent Aaron Moran said he’s waiting to receive more information before commenting on the proposed budget.
“We will be waiting for the spreadsheets from Columbus to determine exactly what the Governor’s proposal looks like for Minster,” said Superintendent Brenda Boeke. “I expect them to be released sometime within the next week. If we have an issue with how we are being funded I would fully expect the representatives in our area to listen to our concerns. They have been very open to dialogue in the past.
“As far as the governor’s proposal to appoint three non voting board of education members representing the business sector, I would be surprised if most board’s in our area of the state didn’t already include a business representative on their board. This may need to be clarified before the budget proposal is actually approved,” Boeke said.
The budget, which covers two years, begins July 1. Both the House of Representatives and Ohio Senate must approve the budget.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.