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Money outlook bright for Ohio schools

Apr. 24, 2013 @ 10:56 PM

IRONTON -- Not quite halfway through the funding process, most Lawrence County schools and the county Education Service Center are a lot better off than they were a month ago.

When Gov. John R. Kasich's budget proposal came out, no county school district was set to get an increase while the service center faced massive cuts.

State Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Gallipolis, a member of the House education finance committee, was able to help restore some education funds to five of the seven public school districts in the county. Only Fairland and Rock Hill currently are set to receive flat funding, while other districts now are tabbed to get increases, according to the current Ohio House budget proposal.

South Point is in line to get an additional $718,894, Dawson-Bryant is set to receive $495,138, Chesapeake could get $422,420, Symmes Valley could get $210,088, and Ironton could get an additional $13,154.

"It's not set in stone," said South Point Superintendent Ken Cook. "It has to go through a lot more. Too many things can change. It looks positive right now, but I won't get excited until the governor signs it."

The changes were in the House version of the two-year budget starting July 1. The budget currently is being reviewed by the Ohio Senate. The Senate will vote on the budget June 8, then the spending plan will go to a conference committee and to Kasich for his signature.

"I really appreciate what Ryan and (State Rep.) Terry Johnson have done," Cook said. "It shows they're working for southern Ohio. Smith helped equalize the funding formula" that provides more money for rural school districts, he said.

Smith said there will be changes to the budget proposal.

"I feel like we improved the (funding) formula," he said. Before the changes were made, only one of the 11 school districts in his district was set to get increased funds. However, the Gallia County local district and the Gallipolis City school district are among those not getting an increase in funds. Smith is a former school board member for Gallipolis.

One big change in the budget proposal affected the educational service center, which provides a variety of shared services such as speech and physical therapists, school nurse and curriculum and attendance supervision to local districts. Other services the county center supplies to the seven districts includes attendance officers, psychologists, an alternative school director and teacher shared purchasing arrangements, and provide expertise on state tests and assessments, among others, said Jim Payne, superintendent of the educational service center.

"We're still facing a cut of $275,000 to $300,000, but it was twice as big when this started," Payne said. "We're in better shape now than we were a month ago, but there are still some unresolved issues. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We're working with our state senators. We need to continue to work hard."

If the cuts stay in place, local districts will have to pick up costs that currently are shared, Payne said.

"We provide services to local districts who can't afford it individually," Payne said earlier. "It's a way to have education dollars go farther."

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