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Helping ‘Poor’ School Districts

February 4, 2013
The Intelligencer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Reports last week that Gov. John Kasich wants to provide additional state help to school districts with meager property tax bases no doubt was received happily by some East Ohio education officials. While the plan should help meet a state Supreme Court ruling on school funding equity, there is another excellent argument for it: It's the right thing to do.

Kasich unveiled a budget proposal under which no school district would see a reduction in state aid. That pleased many school superintendents who are nearly at their wits' ends finding ways to cut spending in reaction to previous reductions in state funding.

But even without additional state aid cuts, some school districts - including a few in our area - are in deep fiscal trouble. Local taxes are percentages of the appraised values of property. In school districts where property, both residential and business, is worth a lot, local levies bring in plenty of money for schools. But in areas where property values are low, schools and other local government entities sometimes suffer.

The outlook can change within a few years. For example, closure of a Belmont County power plant and steel mills in the Ohio Valley will have a dramatic effect on property taxes collected by some school districts.

School officials briefed by Kasich had good reason to like his announcement state aid will not be reduced during the next two-year budget cycle. And those from "poor" districts were happy about his plan to give them more help.

Still, as some school superintendents pointed out, the state funding formula is a complex one. Celebrations will be put off until state funding numbers for specific districts are provided.

Providing those numbers look as good as Kasich's preview hinted they will, East Ohio legislators should vote in favor of the governor's plan.

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