MEDINA — Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal released last month would create some challenges for Ohio’s educational service centers, but also open the door to bring in revenue by collaborating with cities, villages and townships.
The governor’s budget proposal would cut funding to the centers by 10 percent next fiscal year and by 30 percent the next year.
The centers are government agencies with which local school districts contract with to provide services they might not be able to provide individually. For example, the Medina County Schools Educational Service Center provides staff development, coordinates substitute teachers for some districts, runs a Chinese language program and a preschool program for special needs children.
Will Koran, superintendent of the county educational service center, said funding from the state was frozen in 1998 and cutbacks began in 2008.
In 2007, for example, the $1 million state subsidy made up 72 percent of the local center’s general fund and 24 percent of its entire budget. In 2013, the projected $578,000 it’s expected to receive will make up 25 percent of its general fund and 7.4 percent of its entire budget, he said.
Koran said the cuts are a tough blow and the ESC will have to make some hard choices in the coming years.
The agency’s board already has decided to cancel its purchase of the county-owned building at Remsen and Myers roads in Medina Township, where it planned to move all its offices.
Not only would it cost $50,000 to buy the Remsen Road building, Koran estimated it would cost about $800,000 to renovate it.
He said other cuts likely will be needed in the future.
“We will be taking a look at our agreements, our contracts, our staffing. We will be looking at everything,” he said.
On the revenue side, the governor’s budget would allow each educational service center statewide to change its name to Regional Shared Services Center and allow it to provide services to local governments as well as schools.
“It’s time to simplify, clarify and coordinate better. Current budget challenges will require all government entities including schools to seek more cost effective ways to provide services,” the proposal reads.
It calls for the new system to be in place in July 2012.
Koran said he thinks the ESC could do billing, human resources, payroll and staff development for local governments.
The ESC would contract with government bodies and provide the services for potentially less money than it would cost them to do it on their own.
However, he said it’s not likely the additional revenue would make up for the state cuts.
Since the ESC has about a 3 percent to 5 percent profit margin on its services, Koran estimates he would have to sell about $7 million in programs to local governments to overcome the impact of the cuts.
“Every time there’s a negative, there’s a positive in there somewhere,” Koran said. “I need a whole lot of positive to make up for the negative.”
Local government leaders this week said they haven’t heard much about the proposal, especially since there’s no formal system yet.
However, most said they’re interested in looking into what kind of services the ESC could provide.
“I think we have to look into anything that could be a cost savings,” County Commissioner Pat Geissman said.
She said some services it might make sense to work with the ESC on, and some may not.
“I think anything we can do together to save money, I think the taxpayer expects that — as long as we are not jeopardizing or causing a problem with that particular service,” she said.
Several township trustees echoed her sentiments.
Trustee Sally Gardner said services like payroll are done by the Medina Township fiscal officer, so trustees likely wouldn’t need to work with the ESC on that.
Montville Township trustee Ron Bischof said the township has strict hiring standards.
“So I wouldn’t like to give that to another entity to judge something like that,” he said.
However, Gardner and Bischof said they would look into other services.
Lafayette Township trustee Bryon Macron said the township also would consider contracting with the ESC for certain services. He said local governments already are working together on collaboration initiatives.
“And I think you’re going to see a lot more of that … because city and township budgets are being affected by the state budget,” he said.
Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.