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Kasich budget to cut school funds

By Jackie Mooney, For The Miami Student

Governor John Kasich recently devised a new plan for Ohio education to aid school districts in need - a plan that will drastically cut funds for more than half of the state's districts.

Local school districts Mason and Lakota are among those that will be most affected by the plan.

Butler County's Lakota Local Schools would lose the most money of any school district in the state over the next two years - $5.9 million - under Kasich's new proposal to divvy up state money for school districts. Warren County's Mason City Schools ranks second among Ohio schools losing the most money, with $5.2 million less headed to the school next year under Kasich's plan.

According to the new plan, the state would send less money to districts whose homeowners have the financial ability to pay more for their schools through higher property taxes. Kasich's administration determined whether to increase or decrease money from the state in part by looking at incomes and property values in the district.

"We want to help those who can't help themselves," the governor said last week in a press conference. "And for those that can help themselves, we need you to step up."

That means 307 of Ohio's 610 public districts would see less state money over the next two years.

Ohio lawmakers are considering Kasich's proposal, part of his two-year state budget, and some in the GOP have already spoken out against the idea. The state must pass a final plan, with the governor's signature, by July.

Lakota Local Schools would lose 11.7 percent - four percent of the district's total revenue, including property taxes.

"Our district just passed a 3.5-million dollar operating levy last November," Jenni Logan, the district's treasurer, said. "If this is trying to say that our community members aren't giving as much as they should be, we need to talk about that."

Mason City Schools would lose 13.5 percent over two years. That represents a 5.4 percent decline in the total revenue the school district receives, including local property taxes.

"We are very concerned that the governor's proposal makes Mason students and taxpayers some of the biggest losers in the state of Ohio," spokeswoman Tracey Carson said. "We know that this process is just beginning."

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Still, Mason residents' current tax level is below the state average, according to an annual state measure.

According to the plan's specifics, ten of Hamilton County's 22 schools would lose state money under the plan. The money Mariemont City Schools would lose represents the largest percent-loss in the region - 21.5 percent over the next two years. The decline represents a 3.6 percent drop in the total taxpayer money the school district receives, including local property taxes.

Meanwhile, seven schools in Hamilton and Butler counties would each see their money from the state increase 21 percent over two years, the most in the region: North College Hill, Indian Hill, Finneytown Local, Madison Local, Middletown City, Monroe Local and Hamilton City.

Kasich's proposal has already received criticism from some majority Republicans in the Legislature.

Rep. Mike Dovilla said the plan had a "Robin Hood effect": forcing districts with already high property taxes to send more of their income to the state, then asking them to raise property taxes even higher.

"Ultimately, there's only so much we can squeeze out of those who are successful and who are paying their taxes," he said.

Budget director Tim Keen said the "Robin Hood effect" is the general nature of taxes. The state needs to send money to poorer districts, he said, and sending similar amounts to wealthier districts would essentially require higher state income taxes.

"The districts who can raise taxes locally are better off to raise that money locally and control it locally, and they're better off to have their state taxes as low as possible," Keen said.