Schools plan to explain to voters what Kasich plan means to them

Districts hoping to persuade voters to support levies and bond issues this spring will have to explain the impact of Gov. John Kasich’s recently unveiled education funding plan.

Seven of 12 school districts in Clark and Champaign counties are asking voters on May 7 to either renew existing levies, to approve new operating money or to provide funding for buildings or maintenance.

“Any time there’s an issue of uncertainty relative to the funding that a district either has … it’s something that people are voting on will have questions about,” said Damon Asbury, director of legislative services for the Ohio School Boards Association.

Kettering City Schools, near Dayton, opted to withdraw a levy request from the May ballot based on projections of additional funding under Kasich’s plan. No Clark or Champaign County district has withdrawn their ballot issue.

Four of the local districts on the May ballot are projected to receive no funding increase in either year of the state budget. Mechanicsburg will ask voters to support a renewal and increase for operating dollars, and West-Liberty hopes to renew an income tax. Greenon is seeking a bond issue, while Clark-Shawnee is asking for new operating money.

“This will be one of those issues that we have to focus on as we communicate and talk with folks and let them know that as far as we know, we won’t be getting any extra money,” said Clark-Shawnee Superintendent Gregg Morris.

If Kasich’s proposal is passed into law, three of the districts — Springfield, Urbana and Tecumseh — would receive additional money one or both of the next two years, according to projections from the governor’s office.

“The governor’s proposal is still only a proposal, not law,” said Springfield Superintendent David Estrop. “Even if it were passed, it does not include funding for any capital equipment or building long-term maintenance costs.”

Springfield is seeking a levy to fund maintenance on its buildings and is projected to receive an additional $2.6 million in fiscal year 2014 and an additional $2.3 million in fiscal year 2015.

If the governor’s plan is made into law, Tecumseh Local Schools would receive an additional $460,000 in fiscal year 2015. The district’s is seeking a 12.37-mill levy in May that would help close a projected $1.5 million deficit in 2014.

“Any time you get an increase, it’s nice, but the increase does not fix our fiscal issues,” said Superintendent Brad Martin. “I think as a levy team or a levy committee, we’re really going to have to educate our external public to let them know that, yes, we’re getting an increase, but the increase does not cover the deficit, so there’s sill a need for the levy there.”