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Districts consider response to cuts

Athens City Schools could see a more than $1 million loss in state funding if Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget passes in the state legislature.

The cuts would be the result of lost stimulus funds, cuts in transportation funding, changes in open enrollment funding and tax reimbursement phase-outs, said Matt Bunting, Athens City Schools treasurer.

About half of the reductions are based on the state possibly putting an end to tax fund reimbursements for local school districts, said Carl Martin, superintendent of Athens City Schools.

These cuts could result in more than $585,000 in lost funding each year for the next two years, Bunting sad.

“We’re not too happy about that,” Martin said.

The reduction stems from the elimination of the personal tangible property tax, which accounted for a large part of the district’s funding, Martin said.

The state plans to reimburse school districts for the loss in funds provided through the tax and slowly phase out these payments over a number of years, said Dave Pagnard, spokesman for the Ohio Office of Budget and Management.

Each school district will see differing amounts of reimbursement based on the amount of funding each received from the tax, said Pat Gallaway, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education.

The payment phase-outs were paused by the Strickland administration last year, but Kasich proposed to resume the phase-outs in an effort to close the state-funding gap, Pagnard said.

If Kasich’s proposed budget passes, the Athens City Schools district could see further cuts in transportation and open enrollment funding.

The proposed budget could also result in a slashing of the district’s $40,000 state transportation funding and open enrollment funding, determined by the number of students in the district, could be cut by $60,000, he added.

These cuts would be coupled with the expiration of stimulus funds, which could hit the district just as hard, Martin said.

Last year, the district received $550,000 in stimulus funds, but district officials don’t expect to see that money next year, Bunting said.

In total, Athens City Schools could see a loss of $1.2 million in state funding for 2012 — and other districts are bracing for cuts as well.

Trimble Local School District is expecting state funding cuts of about $430,000, said Cindy Rhonemus, treasurer for the district.

The possibility of state funding cuts follows a troubling trend over the past decade, Martin said.

About 58 percent of Athens City Schools district’s budget was funded from the state about 10 years ago, compared to about 35 percent today, Martin said.

He added he could not comment on how the budget cuts will affect the district or whether cuts are being considered.

The school board, which determines the budget for the district, is waiting for the final state budget to be passed before beginning work on the district’s budget, Martin said.

“It’s going to be a very interesting to see how the state budget will go through the House and Senate,” Bunting said.


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