Local treasurers react to lawmakers’ plan that would significantly boost school funding

Some local school treasurers are more optimistic than they have been in years as Ohio lawmakers may make substantial improvements in the way the state helps pay for local education.

Last week, two state legislators released details of their school funding reforms that, if approved by the Ohio Legislature as part of the next two-year budget, would provide an extra $718 million in state funding.

MORE: See how your local school district would fare under proposed funding plan

Cary Furniss, a veteran school financial officer with Kings Schools, said the Fair School Funding Plan (FSFP) “is the best attempt to get school funding right in Ohio in my 32 years as a school treasurer.”

“The FSFP is an understandable approach to funding schools. The plan would eliminate (funding) caps and guarantees, in place now and 82 percent of schools in Ohio are on a cap or guarantee, so it is obvious the current formula isn’t working,” said Furniss, who has also been a treasurer at Lebanon Schools and for Reading Schools in Hamilton County.

The state would put an additional $400 million toward school funding in Fiscal Year 2020 under a new funding plan proposed by two House members, according to Gongwer News.

MORE: Lakota Schools treasurer played key role in plan to change Ohio school funding

The Ohio Statehouse news service reported Rep. Robert Cupp, R-Lima, and Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, released a simulation of their proposal, which features district-level and statewide costs for implementing the plan.

The simulation shows state foundation funding for schools growing from $6.85 billion for FY 2019 to $7.24 billion in FY 2020. Spending on foundation funding would increase to $7.57 billion under the plan in FY 2021.

Cupp said in a statement a new formula is needed because the majority of school districts currently receive either more or less money than the existing formula prescribes.

“Fair School Funding works for Ohio’s students, educators, taxpayers and economic future. It’s based on what it actually costs to educate students, what taxpayers can afford, and what local school districts determine will work in their communities,” he said. “The current formula doesn’t apply to 82 percent of Ohio school districts.

“The new formula works for over 85 percent of the districts. No district will lose money. And, yes, the plan meets the test of Ohio’s Constitution with respect to the DeRolph (legal) decisions.”

Jenni Logan, treasurer of Lakota Schools, was among a small number of Ohio school financial officials who helped create the new formula with the sponsoring legislators.

MORE: Lakota Schools financial officer wins Ohio Treasurer of the year award

Logan said the new funding formula would benefit Lakota, which is the largest school system in Butler County and the eighth biggest in Ohio by enrollment.

“It’s very easy to go straight to the bottom line of the printout for this proposal and judge its merits based only on a number. The bottom line is positive for Lakota with this proposal,” said Logan.

“But, more importantly, it’s a more fair approach to get to the bottom line and (be) more transparent for our taxpayers. The state and local share calculation is also positive for Lakota. Our capacity to pay is based on what is happening within our school borders, and our residents’ share won’t change when something positive or negative happens somewhere else in the state,” she said.”

Monroe Schools Treasurer Holly Cahall cautioned the funding projections are preliminary and still must go through the Ohio Legislature and its committees before any possible approval.

But so far, said Cahall, she likes what is projected for her Butler County district.

“We don’t assume these are final numbers, but as the treasurer of a district, which now receives only half the amount of the funding formula, I am happy to see the proposal will apply funding to schools in a more equitable and consistent manner,” said Cahall.

“Monroe would receive the same funding as other schools with the same wealth and student population. Right now, Monroe receives less funding than schools just like us, and this is not fair to our students or our taxpayers,” she said.

The proposal likely will be tweaked as it winds its way through the state legislature the next three months.

Furniss said whether the proposal becomes a reality depends on state lawmakers.

“The key to the proposal at this point is (whether) there is political will for the legislature to fund FSFP,” he said.

Once data from a sweeping proposal to change Ohio school funding was released, the Journal-News has examined the impact of the plan on local school systems in Butler and southern Warren County. Stay with the Journal-News for continuing coverage.

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