A few months ago, the Governor announced a new plan for state funding. In the current system, there is a “formula” that is supposed to account for all the various factors determining how much money each school district should receive. The idea is that this new formula “fixes” state funding, which has been deemed unconstitutional and “broken” for years.
However, while the formula has been developed for several years now, many districts are still not receiving the amount they “should,” per the formula. Some districts, like Milford, were on a “cap” – although the formula said we should receive more money than we were receiving, we have been capped at an amount less than this. Other districts, on the “guarantee,” have been receiving more money than they should, based on the formula.
The Governor’s proposed biennial budget, released in February, would have called for Milford to receive an additional 10%, almost $4 million over two years. That would put us closer to the appropriate amount (based on the formula), but still $615,000/year below what we should be receiving. Lt. Governor Mary Taylor told Milford administrators and me in a meeting about a month ago that the Governor’s goal is to eventually get all districts onto the formula.
In the meantime, there will be much back-and-forth on how state funds are allocated among the 609 school districts in Ohio. The latest House bill recommends reducing Milford’s increase to 7.5%, or just under $3 million over the next two years – taking us even farther from the amount we should receive based on the formula. The budget must still go through the Senate and finally be approved by the Governor, so there is no telling if this amount will be reduced even more, increased, or stay the same.
Thankfully, no matter what happens, Milford is in good shape. While we of course hope to see as much of an increase in funds as possible to reach the additional $4.6 million/year we are “owed” per the formula, we have been extremely responsible with our funds to date. We knew changes to state funding were coming years ago, and Superintendent Dr. Bob Farrell and Treasurer Debbie Caudle (and Randy Seymour before her) worked to create efficient yet effective operations so we would be hurt as little as possible, no matter what happened. Our spending/pupil for 2013-14 was $8,523 – 8% less than the state average of $9,189 – yet we are ranked among the top 9% of districts (many of which spend much more than the average) and are continuing to improve the level of education we provide.
Thus, when the initial cuts came a few years ago from various changes in how schools are funded, we were fine – we had planned for reductions; had built them into our forecast, in fact. When we have gotten unexpected gains from the state, this has been extra, money not counted, and has allowed us to focus on improving what we deliver to our students while keeping levies as far apart as possible.
We are very hopeful our legislators do the right thing and provide as much as possible to districts like Milford, who have been shortchanged the amount we should receive for years. While it’s hard for any district to see a reduction in funding, think of how much harder it is for districts like us, that are not receiving our fair share.