VANDALIA – BUTLER — Vandalia-Butler City Schools is just one of 605 traditional school districts in the state of Ohio. Normally, to be a part of such a large group and be recognized as a top 50 school, it would be considered a prestigious honor. However, we recently learned that the Vandalia-Butler City School District (VBCSD) is listed as one of the top 50 schools ranked by the amount of state aid lost. We find this honor to be anything but prestigious. This category is one we wish we were not included in, and unfortunately, it is playing a substantial factor in our day-to-day district operations. As a district, we have tried to keep the community informed over the years in regards to the state failing to fund the district fully. Unfortunately, it takes being included as a top 50 school to put our situation of being shortchanged in school funding into perspective.
All of this became clear after a conference call with a Superintendent colleague from another part of the state, whose district also falls into this category. We were both shocked to learn that 474 of Ohio’s 605 school districts (that’s 78%) receive all, or more, of their formula funding from the state. Meanwhile, 131 districts (or 22% of districts), receive around $435 million less than their formula aid. VBCSD is one of those 131 districts.
Looking deeper, 40 districts receive less than 90% of their calculated state funding, with $333 million lost. Five of those districts receive less than 50% of their formula funding. There are 23 districts who receive between 80-90% of their calculated state funding, with $46 million lost, and 68 districts who receive between 90-100% of their calculated state funding, with $56 million lost.
Over the last three school years, Vandalia-Butler has received an average 78% of the formula funding. Following is a table showing the State Funding formula amount, the actual amount received, the amount lost (shortage) and the percentage of the State Aid formula received.
So, why does VBCSD receive less? The District is “capped” on the amount of state aid it can receive from one year to the next based upon its “wealth” measurement capacity. While several factors are used to determine this indicator, in essence, since we have the capability of raising more monies locally, we are limited by the State of how much they will pay. On the flip side, many Districts are on a “guarantee.” A “guarantee means they will not receive any certain amount less than they did the prior year based upon their wealth capacity measure and this typically happens when they are not able to raise the monies necessary locally. In either scenario, districts are capped or on the guarantee because the state does not fully fund its formula.
For well over twenty years, the Ohio State funding model has been deemed unconstitutional. Districts, like ours, are not getting their share of the funding model and the money that we should be receiving is being used to fund other districts, which certainly puts more of the burden on the local community.
Both the Superintendent and Treasurer/CFO work closely with the Board and a district represented finance committee to educate and help them understand school finances. Also, spending practices are evaluated continuously and altered when needed to provide the most significant value for our dollar. Our district’s Treasurer/CFO and the finance team hold themselves to high standards in day-to-day operations and reporting. With the most recently audited fiscal year (2016-2017), the finance department received the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting by the national GFOA and the Ohio Auditor of State Award with Distinction.
As a district, we continue to make strides in the implementation of our strategic plan and will continue to manage our resources wisely. We hope in the months ahead the newly elected leadership in our General Assembly will address the inadequacies in the state funding model. Efforts are being and will continue to be, made for our Representatives to be held accountable and understand our financial position and shortfall. Hopefully, Columbus will begin making strides to fund our District in the proper method and amount according to the funding measures and practices it has created.
Reach Rob O’Leary at 415-6415 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach Eric Beavers at 415-6407 or by email at email@example.com.