Coronavirus: State cuts blitz Marion County school districts
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MARION — Public school officials in Marion County are digesting the news about some $355 million being cut from Ohio's K-12 education budget due to the financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that a total of $775 million will be cut from the biennial budget over the next two months in an effort to ease the burden of sharply declining tax collections. Office of Budget and Management Director Kimberly Muernieks said Wednesday that the pandemic has resulted in state tax collections dropping $867 million below estimates for April.
飞艇计划app开奖Basic state aid for public, charter, and private schools is being slashed by $300 million with another $55 million being cut from "other education line items," including student assessment, school report cards, and unspent voucher scholarship funds.
On average, the cuts to education amount to about 3.7%, according to the Office of Budget and Management. However, some school districts are experiencing more substantial hits to their funding.
Higher education didn't escape unscathed, with 3.8% across the board cuts amounting to $110 million. Medicaid was cut by $210 million. All other state agencies experienced a total of $100 million in budget cuts.
No further budget cuts are expected since the state has an approximate $500 million cash balance it can spend to stave off further reductions, Murnieks said. The state also can transfer funds from accounts outside the general revenue fund if needed. DeWine said he decided against dipping into the $2.7 billion rainy day fund this year.
Effect on Marion County schools
As of Thursday, public school officials in Marion County said they were still discussing what the cuts mean for their districts and how they will address the loss of funding, both this year and next year.
According to Murnieks, the cuts were “equalized” on a per-pupil basis based on local property tax wealth — the perceived ability of districts to raise a larger share of their revenue from local taxpayers. Basically, that means poorer districts fared better than wealthier districts or districts that the state perceives to be wealthy.
飞艇计划app开奖Marion City Schools is losing $554,514 or 1.9% of its $44,559,165 in per-pupil state aid for fiscal year 2020.
飞艇计划app开奖"We are currently in the process of verifying how these cuts will be spread out for the remainder of the year," Superintendent Ron Iarussi said. "Once we determine that, we will adjust our five year forecast to reflect at least these cuts. We do not have any info on what to expect next year although we are anticipating a further cut.
"We understand that the economy has taken a hit due to COVID," Iarussi said. "Marion City has been and always will be fiscally responsible. We will look for ways to continue to provide a quality program for our students given the resources available to us."
River Valley Local Schools suffered a $371,603 reduction in funding, which amounts to a 5.1% cut to its aid amount of $7,282,050. Superintendent Adam Wickham said his district is currently in deficit spending.
"The treasurer (Cathyrn Zimmer) and I have been discussing how to adjust and we will be meeting with our administrative team to find areas that could be adjusted for the end of our fiscal year in May and June," Wickham said. "Our (1%) earned income tax which was passed last year has only been collected for a few months, but we expect those collections to fall below projections.
"We will continue to evaluate how River Valley can be good stewards of the community's resources. Our goal is to provide quality educational programs for our students and families while being fiscally responsible."
From a percentage standpoint, Pleasant Local Schools took the biggest hit, a 5.8% reduction in per-pupil funding. It amounts to $247,431 taken from its original aid amount of $4,268,537. Pleasant is also in deficit spending.
飞艇计划app开奖"We are in the early collection of our new (1%) earned income tax," Superintendent Jennifer Adams said. "We have only collected two months of withholdings. As a result, the treasurer (Jolene Carter) and I are working to explore all options. We understand that all organizations across the state are experiencing hardship due to this pandemic.
"Thus, while it is not comfortable and is unfortunate timing for Pleasant, we recognize that education also has its share to endure. We will continue to persevere in providing a quality educational experience for our students."
Already struggling financially and also in deficit spending, Ridgedale Local Schools will experience a $149,922 reduction, or 4.9%, of its original state aid amount of $3,031,039.
"The treasurer (Jason Fleming) and I will be working to see how we can minimize the effect of these cuts over the next two months," Superintendent Bob Britton said. "As for next year, once we are informed of the amount we will be better able to determine what next steps we need take. Like a lot of you, we are dealing with a loss of revenue during this pandemic. We will continue to work to provide our students with a high quality education no matter the situation."
Elgin Local Schools is taking a reduction of $215,201, or 3.6% of its $6,059,607 in per-pupil aid from the state.
飞艇计划app开奖"Budgets are already established for this fiscal year, so the foundation payment cuts will cut into any carry-over balance that we or any other district has," Superintendent Lane Warner said. "We have already begun to discuss areas in which we can cut expenses to offset the loss in revenue. We are committed to making every effort possible to balance our yearly budget.
"As we get more information from the state with regard to future reductions in funding we will look at several areas where we can potentially cut costs, but our priority will always be to preserve educational services for our students."
All five superintendents said the only alternative source of revenue that might be available is through the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The federal stimulus package includes $30.7 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund, of which $13.2 billion has been earmarked for K-12 schools.
However, it's not clear at this point how much each of the Marion County school districts will receive or what restrictions will be placed on how to spend that funding.
(Randy Ludlow of The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.)