Budget will benefit all but Lisbon schools

LISBON – School funding would increase for every district in Columbiana County but Lisbon under the new two-year state budget passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich.

According to an analysis by the Plain Dealer newspaper, 10 of the 11 school districts in the county would receive more state basic aid funding over the next two fiscal years, which began July 1. Absent from the funding analysis is the county Career Center and the Buckeye Online School For Success.

Funding will increase statewide from $6.3 billion to $7 billion the first year, while in the second year districts will receive 11 percent more money than they do now. The increases were capped at 6.25 percent the first year and 10.5 percent the next, although most of the increases in the county fell under these maximums.

The Plain Dealer said about 30 percent of Ohio’s 613 school districts would not receive any increase over the next two years, and Lisbon School Treasurer Cindy Shultz is puzzled why they are the only one in this county not receiving any additional funding.

School funding is tied in large part to enrollment, and Shultz said while Lisbon is continuing to lose students, so is almost every other district in the county.

“Nothing has changed dramatically,” she said, adding another contributing factor may be Lisbon’s property tax revenue, which is also a component of the state aid formula. Lisbon’s property tax revenue has shown little growth in recent years.

Like all districts in the county, state funding accounts for either the majority or a significant portion of its funding, ranging from 28 percent in Columbiana to 75 percent in East Liverpool. For Lisbon, state funding accounts for 62 percent of its general fund operating revenue.

Lisbon entered deficit spending two years ago, which means expenditures have now begun exceeding revenue, so zero additional state funding for the next two years, coming after a slight reduction during the past school year, certainly complicates the district’s financial situation.

“It’s going to be a challenge. The carry-over balance is what’s going to carry us through,” Shultz said, referring to the district’s $3.1 million cash balance, which is expected to disappear by 2017 if spending continues to outpace revenue.

“What looks like a nice size of money is quickly going away,” she said.

The board has taken a number of steps in recent years to reduce spending when possible, such as eliminating positions following retirements, consolidating others and joining with the county Educational Service Center to share bus services.

State Rep. Nick Barborak, D-Lisbon, was disappointed with the increases and the fact some districts such as Lisbon were left out. “It doesn’t even come near close to making up for the cuts of two years ago,” he said.

The 11 districts were cut by an average of $356,233 in 2012-13 under the previous state budget, but nine of the 11 districts went on to receive a slight increase in state funding for 2013-14, while funding for the other two remained unchanged from the previous year.