Cuts or taxes: Schools see few options for funding

MARGARETTA The budget crunch for area schools leaves few options for the future.
Janet
May 24, 2010

MARGARETTA

The budget crunch for area schools leaves few options for the future.

"In Erie County, it's cuts," said Jude Hammond, treasurer for the Margaretta school district. "That's the only alternative unless (voters) pass levies."

Building consolidation, reducing teachers and eliminating some class offerings will all come into play to reduce operating expenses.

But cutting programs and staff positions has limitations, Hammond said, and it's critical for his district that voters approve the levy that will appear on the November ballot just to sustain current services.

It has been 10 years since voters in the district approved a new-money levy.

Sandusky Schools also will be looking to the ballot this fall for relief, although the district will receive a slight increase in state funding. Sandusky Schools has the largest number of students living in or near poverty, and the poverty-based assistance from the state will add a new subsidy to help close the achievement gap for students who fall behind.

Despite failed past efforts to convince voters to approve new money issues, it remains the preferred choice over possible mergers, which present a host of new challenges.

"A marriage of school districts require accepting partners to make it work," said Bill Phillis, executive director for the reform group Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding.

But merging districts is not new.

"At the turn of the (20th) century, there were nearly 3,000 school districts in the state of Ohio. Today there are 613 districts," he said. "In many cases, those mergers were forced by the state or county board of education."

The process always brings challenges.

"In some cases, the animosity continued for decades," he said. "Unless a neighboring district is very wealthy in terms of property wealth, it really doesn't solve a financial problem by merging."