Updated Mon, Jun 9, 2014 7:12 am
One Ohio Now and local leaders held regional press calls Thursday discussing the impact of state budget cuts on local communities and school districts.
The call, led by moderator Gavin DeVore Leonard, State Director for One Ohio Now, focused on the impacts of state budget cuts from the 2010-11 budget to the current 2014-15 budget.
While leaders from a variety of regions and agencies spoke on the topic, all had one thing in common — budget cuts have affected the services they are able to provide.
Athens City Schools Associate Supt. Tom Gibbs spoke of the budget struggles not only with Athens City Schools, but in his previous district in Washington County.
“I was Superintendent at the Warren Local School District from 2005-2013. Due to changes in state funding, we closed two school buildings, reduced dozens of teaching and support positions, increased many class sizes to over 30 students per class, and for a two year period we operated with no high school busing in a district that covered nearly 200 square miles. Now, in Athens, I’ve learned we have similar tough choices to make.”
Those tough choices have included the closure of an elementary school a year ago and the reduction of positions.
Despite those efforts, according to Gibbs, the district will be in deficit spending this year and that is projected to continue. Without any changes to either costs or revenues, the district is projected to have a cash balance near $0 at the end of the five-year forecast.
Gibbs noted that Athens City Schools are in a better position then some districts with regard to tax levies for funding. The district’s income tax levy was recently approved by voters for the third time.
According to numbers provided by CutsHurtOhio.com, between the 2010-11 budget and the 2014-15 budget, Athens County has seen a reduction of $2.6 million in education funding. Local government has also seen a cut of $3.6 million in Athens County.
Around the region, it is a mixed bag of cuts or small increases in education funding. Vinton County has seen an increase of $96,000, while Perry County has an increase of $337,000, Jackson County has an increase of $3.5 million and Pike County has an increase of $4.2 million.
Counties with decreases in education funding were Hocking ($1.1 million), Pickaway ($2.2 million) and Meigs ($415,000).
No counties in the region saw an increase in local government funds.
This is not only an issue in Southeast Ohio, but around the state.
“We reduced five teachers this spring, and will have to reduce 10 more next year if our November levy attempt fails. This has a direct impact on the quality of programming that we can offer our kids” said Superintendent Jay Arbaugh, Keystone Local School District. “We will have to reduce the amount of Advanced Placement classes we can offer, and student to teacher ratio will balloon. Neither of these scenarios is good for kids.”
Other local leaders on the calls were Mayor David Berger, City of Lima, Cincinnati City Councilman, Chris Seelbach and Mark Donaghy, Executive Director, Greater Dayton RTA.