August 22, 2014

Medina
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Kasich’s budget cuts not as severe as many school officials thought

MEDINA — The outlook in Gov. John Kasich’s two-year budget proposal for some local school districts and governments is not good. For others, the funding cuts wasn’t as drastic as expected.

Funding for schools, for example, was cut significantly in the biennial budget proposal Kasich unveiled Tuesday.

Lukas

Lukas

However, it was not the 15 percent to 20 percent the state warned might be cut. When all state funds are considered, schools will see a cut of 6.1 percent in the budget’s first fiscal year starting in July 2012 and 4.7 percent in the fiscal year beginning in July 2013.

Those cuts won’t be across the board. School districts with higher property valuations will see a higher percentage of the cuts.

Medina Superintendent Randy Stepp said he expects between 10 percent and 15 percent less in state funding.

“I would think that in the next few days we should get some kind of analysis that will give us a better idea,” he said Wednesday.

However, he said the cuts probably will not be as bad as the district was expecting. Medina Schools incorporated cuts of 15 percent to 20 percent into its budget projections. That means it likely will have a smaller than projected budget deficit of around $500,000 next year.

“So when you’re looking at a $6 million deficit, a half-million dollars does help,” he said.

However, Highland Schools Superintendent Catherine Aukerman pointed out that any cut to funding is a bane for the district, even though it had been projecting between 5 percent and 15 percent less in state funding in its financial outlook.

“It’s not good news,” Aukerman said. “That’s still a dramatic cut in a district where we’re already squeezed so tight.”

Medina County’s cities, villages and townships also would be affected if the governor’s budget proposal is passed as is.

The Local Government Fund, which sends a portion of state taxes to smaller governments, would be cut 25 percent in the upcoming fiscal year and an additional 25 percent the year after, according to Kasich’s proposal.

“It’s devastating to local governments,” Brunswick City Manager Jim Lukas said.

The city would lose about $400,000 in local government funding next fiscal year.

“For us to lose $400,000, citizens should be pretty outraged at the state right now, at the governor,” Lukas said.

Brunswick Finance Director Todd Fischer said the cuts probably would affect services, since the city reduced staffing during previous years’ budget cuts.

Kasich’s proposal aims to fill an $8.6 billion state budget shortfall.

Spending reductions to state agencies “are essential to reducing government’s overall costs and helping to create the jobs-friendly environment Ohio needs,” Kasich wrote in a summary of his budget.
The budget still needs to be approved by the Legislature.

Several local government officials said Kasich’s proposed cuts were too dramatic.

“Certainly that’s a larger cut than we were anticipating,” county Commissioner Pat Geissman said.

The 2011 county budget approved this week projected cuts of 20 percent in local government funding.

Geissman has organized a group of local officials to petition the state to not drastically cut local government funding.

The officials met last month to discuss the potential cuts. She said she hopes to call them again soon to “figure out what our action plan is.”

Last year, the local government funds made up about 8 percent of the county’s general fund budget.

It’s an even bigger part of the budget for other communities.

For example, figures from Harrisville Township show local government funding was 47.9 percent of the township’s general fund budget last year.

Westfield Township trustee Jim Likley said he’s waiting to hear more about how the township will be affected by the cuts.

Last year, local government funding made up almost 30 percent of Westfield’s budget.

He said losing some of that money would be hard.

“We’ll have to adjust. We really don’t have any option, unfortunately,” he said.

Wadsworth Mayor Robin Laubaugh said the cuts to local government funding aren’t timed well.

“It’s coming on the heels of several years of reductions in revenues. … To get an additional hit of reduction of local government funds, it just hurts,” she said.

On the other hand, Seville Councilman Rick Stallard said the village didn’t forecast receiving much money from the Local Government Fund.

“So we if don’t get a dime, we’re going to be OK. We anticipated this,” he said.

Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell said local government funding is an important boon for the city.

It makes up about 10 percent of Medina’s general fund, but only about 1.5 percent of all its funds.

“My gut reaction is if this passes the House and the Senate as proposed, that the city would still be able to maintain all the services we’re providing without any adverse impact,” he said.

The governor’s budget proposal stressed that local governments would be able to generate revenue through online advertising and selling naming rights to buildings.

The governments also could save money by posting public notices online instead of in newspapers. It also encourages public entities to collaborate more to share costs.

“By tearing down walls that currently prevent townships, villages, cities, counties and school districts from working together to share services and reduce their costs, we will empower localities to put themselves on track to provide better taxpayer value and create jobs-friendly environments,” Kasich said.

County Commissioner Steven Hambley said some county entities already have taken on some of the proposed cost savings, like centralized maintenance and other services.

He’s said he’s going to look to see if “it really affects the budget that much.”

He added: “The devil is in the details.”

Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.