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School officials say casino revenue is of little help to cash-strapped districts

FPS staff report

Ohio public school leaders say the casino tax revenue districts are set to receive by Jan. 31 is a drop in the bucket compared to major school-funding reductions in recent years.

A survey conducted by three statewide education groups representing Ohio public schools puts the casino proceeds for schools in perspective.

The Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA), the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA) and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBO) said today they want to make sure the public understands exactly what the casino revenue will mean for schools.

“We have seen reports from across the state about this supposed revenue windfall from the casinos that will be going to school districts at the end of the month,” said OSBA Executive Director Richard Lewis. “While we are appreciative of the $38 million that will be distributed to school districts statewide, we caution that it be kept in perspective. We fear the public will see these funds as the Ohio Lottery all over again — a solution to our school-funding problems.”

“The level of casino revenue funding for this first fiscal year is considerably less than the losses school districts have experienced in the current education budget,” said Kirk Hamilton, BASA executive director. “Ohio school districts have lost significant funding with the elimination of federal stimulus funds and the reduction in replacement funds for local tangible personal property taxes no longer collected. Total education funding for Ohio schools was reduced by $1.6 billion over the past two years in spite of slight increases in allocations from Ohio’s General Revenue Fund.”

OASBO Executive Director David Varda pointed to a survey the groups recently conducted to find out how school districts are affected by the casino revenues, especially in light of recent funding losses. More than 345 school district treasurers/CFOs responded to the survey.
“When asked what percentage of their district operating budgets the casino revenues would represent, no one reported more than 2%,” Varda said. “More than 76% of respondents reported the casino revenues make up less than 1% of their school district’s operating budget.”

The survey also showed that approximately half of the districts responding lost more than $500,000 in each of the past two years. Many districts reported losses as much as $1 million to $2.5 million.

“When you divide $38 million among all school districts statewide, the casino revenues should not be assumed to make up for the losses they’ve just experienced,” Varda said. “This new revenue stream for schools is not a solution to school funding.”

Carrollton schools are scheduled to receive $48,995.73, which Treasurer Roxanne Mazur said accounts for less than one percent of the district’s annual budget. She said the district is projected to lose $280,000 in revenue this year.

Brown Local schools are slated to receive $14,665.25 and lose about $120,000 in funding.

Minerva Local School are to receive $41,169.05, Conotton Valley, $10,295.34; Southern Local, $18,160.34, Edison, $38,217.60 and Buckeye Career Center, $27,456.01.

State officials said this is the only distribution that will be made to schools in 2013. Beginning in 2014, there will be two distributions per year.  

The groups that conducted the survey noted the voter-approved casino amendment language that set up the distribution payments for schools, states, “… distributions to school districts and local governments, under this amendment, are intended to supplement, not supplant, any funding obligations of the state.”

Governor John Kasich is scheduled to release his new proposal for school funding in the next few weeks and the legislature is working on the new state budget. 

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